The Economics of Topical Immunomodulators for the Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis
Amy S. Paller
Diane L. Whitaker-Worth
Mary M. Prendergast
Kuo B. Tong
Atopic dermatitis is a common, chronic, relapsing inflammatory skin disease frequently affecting infants and children. The worldwide prevalence of atopic dermatitis is estimated to be 5-20% of the paediatric population. First-line therapy has generally consisted of dry skin care, avoidance of triggers, application of topical corticosteroids, and administration of antihistamines and oral antibacterials. Topical corticosteroids improve the lesions of atopic dermatitis; however, concern on the part of physicians and patients regarding adverse effects has led to reluctance to utilise topical corticosteroids early and especially for prolonged periods. Topical immunomodulators (TIMs), including tacrolimus ointment and pimecrolimus cream, were recently introduced for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Clinical data show that TIMs are effective in atopic dermatitis, yet do not cause the significant adverse effects associated with topical corticosteroids. Questions remain regarding the place of TIMs as a treatment for atopic dermatitis and how to use them most effectively, from both therapeutic and pharmacoeconomic standpoints. Specifically, two major issues remain unresolved: (i) how TIMs measure up to other therapies, especially topical corticosteroids; and (ii) how members of the TIM drug class compare against each other. Previous research has established that atopic dermatitis has a significant impact on quality of life (QOL) and carries a substantial economic burden. Some studies have also measured the utility of various atopic dermatitis disease states. While there is a need for further research, early economic studies provide evidence that TIMs positively affect the QOL of patients and families. In certain patients, TIMs may be cost effective and have an acceptable incremental cost utility compared with topical corticosteroids. Making cost-effectiveness comparisons between tacrolimus and pimecrolimus is challenging because there are limited head-to-head comparative data. Given currently available efficacy data, the results of one study suggest that tacrolimus may be more cost effective than pimecrolimus in paediatric patients with moderate atopic dermatitis. The full economic and QOL benefits of both agents are yet to be completely understood. The studies reviewed herein are the first to delineate the pharmacoeconomic benefits of TIMs in atopic dermatitis, and lay the foundation for future analyses. TIMs represent an exciting advance in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Additional research will help determine the proper place of TIMs among the current array of therapeutic options for atopic dermatitis.
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