This Eczema Treatment May Be Safe for Kids

Pimecrolimus did not appear to raise cancer risk in children with eczema

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) For parents of kids with the red, itchy skin that comes with eczema, finding an effective treatment is a top priority. And so is making sure the treatment doesn't have unsafe side effects. One common treatment may be safer than once thought.

A new study found that a common topical cream, pimecrolimus, used to treat eczema did not increase the risk of cancer.

The authors of this study looked at thousands of children who used the cream, which was thought to have a link to cancer.

"It is encouraging to see a study that maintains pimecrolimus has a good safety profile," said board-certified dermatologist Coyle S. Connolly, DO, president of Connolly Dermatology. "Patients and their families should still be cautioned on any, albeit rare, potential side effects of this and any other drug."

Eczema is a skin condition that is common during infancy and early childhood. People with eczema develop a dry, scaly, uncomfortable rash.

Topical pimecrolimus (brand name Elidel) is a skin cream that is prescribed to help treat eczema. Similar medications that treat other conditions have been suspected of causing tumors. This prompted the US Food and Drug Administration to add a warning to package inserts of the topical cream.

This study, led by David J. Margolis, MD, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, looked at whether pimecrolimus caused cancer.

These researchers studied nearly 7,500 children who had eczema and were using pimecrolimus. They followed up with them for several years.

Over the course of this study, five cases of cancer were reported. Compared to typical rates of cancer in children, this cancer rate did not suggest a raised cancer risk with pimecrolimus use.

In an editorial about this study, Jon M. Hanifin, MD, of the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, noted that "it is reassuring that the occurrence of lymphoma and/or leukemia is no more frequent than in the general population. In addition, the skin application sites do not appear to be at higher risk for melanoma ..."

The study and editorial were published Feb. 18 in JAMA Dermatology.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals funded this research. Dr. Margolis said he had ties to a study funded by Astellas Pharma.

Review Date: 
February 17, 2015
Last Updated:
February 19, 2015