Though responses to topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs) plus phototherapy were found to be higher than TCI monotherapy, a meta-analysis of studies on TCI therapy found that both should be used in treatment for patients with vitiligo.

“In addition, the proactive use of TCIs to maintain remission of vitiligo could be promising, considering its high recurrence rate,” wrote Ji Hae Lee, MD, PhD, of the Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, and coauthors in JAMA Dermatology.

To assess TCIs as treatment for vitiligo, the researchers undertook a systematic review and analysis of 56 relevant studies. Eleven of the studies were on the TCI mechanism; 36 were on TCI monotherapy; 12 were on TCI plus phototherapy; and 1 was on TCI maintenance therapy. Treatment responses for each study were measured via the degree of repigmentation on a quartile scale: an at least mild response (25% or greater repigmentation), at least moderate response (50% or greater repigmentation), and marked response (75% or greater repigmentation).

In regard to TCI monotherapy, an at least mild response was achieved in 55% (95% confidence interval, 42.2%-67.8%) of 560 patients in 21 studies. An at least moderate response was achieved in 38.5% (95% CI, 28.2%-48.8%) of 619 patients in 23 studies, and there was a marked response in 18.1% (95% CI, 13.2%-23.1%) of 520 patients in 19 studies.

For TCI plus phototherapy, an at least mild response was achieved in 89.5% (95% CI, 81.1%-97.9%) of 433 patients in eight studies. An at least moderate response was achieved in 72.9% (95% CI, 57.6%-88.2%) of 486 patients in 10 studies, and a marked response was achieved in 47.5% (95% CI, 30.6%-64.4%) of 490 patients in 9 studies.

The authors noted several limitations with their review, including a level of heterogeneity in the study designs, characteristics of the patients, and protocols. They also acknowledged that the quartile scale may be somewhat arbitrary in nature, though they added that it has been the “most commonly used measure and would have been one of the best estimates of the treatment response at this time.”

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Lee JH et al. Jama Dermatol. 2019 May 29. doi: 10.1001/Jamadermatol.2019.0696.