Rosacea may be one disease, but it often requires more than one treatment, a dermatologist said at the annual Coastal Dermatology Symposium. Don’t assume you can just prescribe one drug like you might with acne, she advised.

Dr. Julie C. Harper

Dr. Julie C. Harper

“Treat everything that you see,” said dermatologist Julie C. Harper, MD, of Birmingham, Ala. “That may mean a laser or something you’re using off-label. Different lesions and signs of rosacea will require multiple modes of treatment.”

Dr. Harper offered these other pearls to consider when treating rosacea:

  • Don’t get hung up on subtypes.

The four subtypes of rosacea should be used to classify lesions, not people, she said. That’s because patients can fall into more than one of the four categories – erythematotelangiectatic rosacea, papulopustular rosacea, phymatous rosacea, and ocular rosacea, she noted.

“Document the redness you see and ask them what’s bothering them the most,” she said. And ask yourself, she added, “Do I have them on everything that I should have them on?”

  • Talk to patients about triggers.

For the first visit, “we have to talk to patients about skin care and triggers,” Dr. Harper noted. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, common rosacea triggers include sunlight, hairspray, heat, stress, alcohol, and spicy foods.

  • Consider an ivermectin-brimonidine combination.

“Targeting inflammation in papules and pustules doesn’t necessarily translate to less background erythema,” Dr. Harper said. What to do? She pointed to a 2017 study that examined a combination treatment of ivermectin 1% topical cream (Soolantra) and brimonidine 0.33% topical gel (Mirvaso) for patients with rosacea with moderate to severe persistent erythema and inflammatory lesions. Ivermectin is indicated for inflammatory lesions, while brimonidine treats persistent erythema.

A woman with rosacea Rosacea.org

At week 12, the proportion of patients who achieved investigator global assessment of clear or almost clear was 55.8% in the combination group, versus 36.8% of those in the vehicle group (P = .007), according to the study (J Drugs Dermatol. 2017 Sep 1;16[9]:909-16). Dr. Harper highlighted the effect of brimonidine when added to ivermectin. “In a period of 3 hours,” she said, “we had twice as many people fall into clear or almost clear.”

  • Consider adding botulinum toxin to your toolbox.

This “really does work,” Dr. Harper said. She pointed to a 2015 report of botulinum toxin use in two cases of refractory flushing and erythema and a 2012 report of 13 cases in patients with the same symptoms (Dermatology. 2015;230:299-301; J Drugs Dermatol. 2012 Dec;11[12]:e76-9). Dr. Harper said that she usually uses the full 50-unit dose of Botox.

  • Consider a beta-blocker.

According to a 2018 report, the beta-blocker carvedilol (Coreg) showed benefit when added to other treatments in five patients with facial flushing and persistent erythema.

  • Keep isotretinoin in mind.

A 2016 report suggested low-dose isotretinoin had value for difficult-to-treat papulopustular rosacea. As Dr. Harper noted, 57% of those who took isotretinoin reached the primary endpoint, versus 10% of those taking the placebo. However, relapses over 4 months were common, which is a sign that it may be wise to prescribe low doses over the long term, but not in females of child-bearing potential, she said.

The Coastal Dermatology Symposium is jointly presented by the University of Louisville and Global Academy for Medical Education. This publication and Global Academy for Medical Education are both owned by Frontline Medical Communications.

Dr. Harper disclosed speaker/advisor relationships with Allergan, Bayer, BioPharmX, Galderma, LaRoche Posay, and Ortho and has served as investigator for Bayer.