Background: The 2 most common agents used to treat dermatophyte onychomycosis of the toe are terbinafine (continuous) and itraconazole (pulse). Although comparative studies have been performed evaluating the efficacy of these 2 agents in adults, no such studies have been reported specifically in the elderly subset.
Objective: This prospective, randomized, single-blind, non--industry-sponsored, comparative study evaluated the efficacy and safety of terbinafine (continuous) and itraconazole (pulse) therapies in the treatment of dermatophyte onychomycosis of the toe in the elderly population.
Methods: Elderly patients (> or =60 years old) with dermatophyte onychomycosis of at least 1 great toe were randomly assigned to receive either terbinafine 250 mg/day for 12 weeks or itraconazole (pulse) 200 mg twice a day for 1 week, given for 3 pulses. At month 6 from the start of therapy, if there was less than 50% reduction in the affected nail plate area compared with baseline, or if there was less than 3 mm outgrowth of unaffected nail plate as measured in midline, then patients who had been administered terbinafine (continuous) therapy were given an extra 4 weeks of the drug (total of 16 weeks of therapy), and those who had received itraconazole (pulse) therapy were given an extra pulse (fourth pulse). Patients were evaluated at 1.5, 3, 6, 12, and 18 months from the start of therapy. The efficacy measures included mycologic cure rate and clinical efficacy (mycologic cure plus clinical cure or clinical improvement so that 10% or less of nail plate was clinically involved).
Results: There were 101 elderly patients enrolled in the study with 50 and 51 patients receiving terbinafine and itraconazole, respectively. The terbinafine group consisted of 28 men and 22 women, age (mean +/- standard error [SE]) 68.0 +/- 0.9 years, duration of onychomycosis (mean +/- SE) 18.2 +/- 1.4 years, number of nails involved (mean +/- SE) 5.5 +/- 0.5, and percent baseline nail plate area involved (mean +/- SE) 67.5% +/- 4.2%. The corresponding figures for the itraconazole (pulse) group were 24 men and 27 women, age (mean +/- SE) 68.8 +/- 0.8 years, duration of onychomycosis (mean +/- SE) 16.1 +/- 1.7 years, number of nails involved (mean +/- SE) 6.0 +/- 0.7, and percent baseline nail plate area involved (mean +/- SE) 74.9% +/- 3.8%, respectively, with no significant difference between the groups. At month 6, the number of patients that required an extra 4 weeks of terbinafine in the allylamine group or an extra itraconazole pulse in the triazole group was 13 of 50 and 23 of 51, respectively. The mycologic cure rate and clinical efficacy at 18 months from the start of therapy for the terbinafine group were 64.0% and 62.0%, respectively. The corresponding figures for the itraconazole (pulse) group were 62.7% and 60.8%, respectively, with no significant difference between the 2 groups. There were no dropouts during therapy. For both groups the drug appeared safe with no significant adverse events (AEs) or clinically significant laboratory abnormalities. All the AEs were mild and transient. There was high compliance with both regimens.
Conclusions: In the elderly, for the treatment of dermatophyte toe onychomycosis, both terbinafine (continuous) and itraconazole (pulse) therapies are effective, safe, and associated with high compliance.