Management of bullous pemphigoid: recommendations for immunomodulatory treatments

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2004;5(5):319-26. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200405050-00005.


In 1953, Lever differentiated bullous pemphigoid from autoimmune pemphigus. The natural course of bullous pemphigoid is relatively benign, with a disease-related mortality rate of 24% compared with around 70% in pemphigus. In spite of the introduction of systemic corticosteroids, the mortality rates in bullous pemphigoid have generally not improved and vary between 0% and 40%. Higher doses of systemic corticosteroids seem to be associated with higher mortality rates, which led to the addition of corticosteroid-sparing agents to the treatment of bullous pemphigoid. However, many of these modalities are also accompanied by severe adverse effects and have not led to a significant decrease in the mortality rate. In recent years, there has been a move toward less toxic treatment options for a disease that is usually self-limited. A systematic review of the literature found that treatment with lower doses of systemic corticosteroids and potent topical corticosteroids is effective and accompanied by less serious adverse effects, including death. No benefit of the addition of plasmapheresis or azathioprine to systemic corticosteroids has been shown. The treatment of bullous pemphigoid with tetracyclines and niacinamide (nicotinamide) is effective and accompanied by less serious adverse effects. However, more randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm these results and to determine the best treatment for bullous pemphigoid.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / therapeutic use
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Niacinamide / therapeutic use
  • Pemphigoid, Bullous / drug therapy*
  • Pemphigoid, Bullous / immunology*
  • Pemphigoid, Bullous / therapy
  • Plasma Exchange


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Niacinamide