For dermatologists and others treating patients with atopic dermatitis (AD), it is “an incredible time,” Lawrence F. Eichenfield, MD, said at MedscapeLive’s Women’s & Pediatric Dermatology Seminar.

More and more treatment options are available and even more are in the pipeline, said Dr. Eichenfield, professor of dermatology and pediatrics and vice chair of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego and Rady Children’s Hospital. As he put it: “We got pills, injections, things to smear on the skin.”

Dr. Lawrence F. Eichenfield is vice chair of the department of dermatology and professor of dermatology and pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, and Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego

Dr. Lawrence F. Eichenfield

Those options are welcome and needed, as AD affects up to 20% of children and up to 10% of adults. The course is variable, as is severity, and quality of life is impacted.

Besides new treatment options, there is a new understanding about comorbidities, environmental effects, and triggers, Dr. Eichenfield said. Among the potential comorbidities health care providers should be aware of are allergies, such as food allergies; asthma; rhinitis; mental health issues (depression, anxiety, ADHD, learning disabilities, or in adults, substance abuse); bone health; skin infections; immune disorders such as alopecia areata or urticaria; and cardiovascular issues that could affect adults.

Environmental effects can play a role in aggravating AD, as providers learned after visits for AD increased after Northern California wildfires and also in other areas with high air pollution, Dr. Eichenfield said. “I actually discuss this with my families,” when making them aware of factors that may affect AD, he noted.

Dr. Eichenfield provided an overview of available treatment options, and what treatments may be coming next. Among the highlights:

Topical ruxolitinib: A JAK1,2 inhibitor in a cream formulation, it is now approved for patients with mild to moderate AD aged 12 years and older in the United States. Of the two strengths studied, the higher strength, 1.5%, was approved, Dr. Eichenfield said. How well did it work? In two phase 3 studies in patients aged 12 and older, of those on 1.5%, 53% were clear or almost clear at 8 weeks, versus 11% in the control group given the vehicle; 52% had at least a 4-point reduction in itch from baseline, versus 15.4% on vehicle. Quality of life improved in up to 73.2% of those given the medication versus 19.7% of those on the vehicle. There was a marked and quick improvement in itch, as early as 12 hours, and safety measures also look good, he said.

Topical tapinarof: Approved in May 2022, for adults with plaque psoriasis, phase 3 trials began in September, 2021, for adults and children with AD, according to the manufacturer. Activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor mediates its anti-inflammatory properties.

Topical roflumilast: A potent PDE-4 inhibitor, phase 3 AD studies are underway. It appears to be well tolerated, Dr. Eichenfield said.

Dupilumab: An IL-4/13 blocker, this biologic produced an itch reduction of 50% and EASI of 80%, improved quality of life, and reduced anxiety and depression. The drug “led the revolution in systemic therapy for atopic dermatitis,” he said. First approved for treating AD in patients aged 18 years and up in 2017, approval for patients 12 years and up followed in March 2019, then for age 6 years and up May 2020.

At the meeting on June 3, Dr. Eichenfield said that approval in children 5 years and under was imminent, and on June 7, the FDA approved dupilumab for use in children aged 6 months to 5 years. In a phase 3, 16-week trial, 28% of children treated with dupilumab added on to low-potency topical corticosteroids met the endpoint of clear or nearly clear skin, compared with 4% of those on the corticosteroids alone (P < .0001).

Tralokinumab: There is no approved indication yet for adolescents, but the injected biologic, an interleukin-13 antagonist, is approved for adults with moderate to severe AD who are not well-controlled with topicals, or who cannot use topicals.

Oral JAK inhibitors: These include abrocitinib and upadacitinib, both approved by the FDA in January 2022 for treating moderate to severe AD, and baricitinib (the latter not in the United States). “For AD, you probably won’t see it in the U.S.,” Dr. Eichenfield said, referring to baricitinib. However, it might get approved for alopecia areata, he noted.

Upadacitinib is approved for adolescents 12 and older with AD. Abrocitinib is approved for adults 18 and older with AD.

Regarding safety and tolerance concerns with oral JAK inhibitors, Dr. Eichenfield cites headache, acne, nausea, and upper respiratory tract infections as relatively common, while herpes zoster, venous thromboembolism, and lab anomalies (neutropenia, elevated CPK) are uncommon.

As the options for AD treatments increase, and expectations by families and clinicians change, Dr. Eichenfield said he often focuses on “bucket duty” – whether a specific patient should be in the topical bucket or the systemic one. It’s a decision that will continue to be crucial, he said.

When presented with treatment options, patients – and parents – often worry about side effects, said Vivian Shi, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Arkansas Medical Center, Little Rock, who also spoke at the meeting. She gently tells them: “The worst side effect you can have is probably not treating the disease itself.”

Medscape Live and this news organization are owned by the same parent company. Dr. Eichenfield is a consultant or investigator for numerous companies that manufacture treatments for AD, but based his discussion on evidence-based recommendations and public presentations or publications.