Background: While oral tacrolimus is effective for the treatment of psoriasis, tacrolimus ointment has shown only spotty efficacy in the treatment of plaque psoriasis. The efficacy of tacrolimus ointment for the treatment of facial and intertriginous psoriasis suggests that if tacrolimus penetration can be increased, the ointment could be used for effective treatment of plaque psoriasis.
Objective: To assess whether tacrolimus ointment is an effective psoriasis treatment when used in a combination regimen with the penetration-enhancer salicylic acid.
Methods: A total of 30 adult subjects with generally symmetrical plaque-type psoriasis were randomized to treatment with 6% salicylic acid gel plus vehicle or 6% salicylic acid gel plus 0.1% tacrolimus ointment in a 12-week left-right comparison study. The primary outcome was the difference between tacrolimus- and vehicle-treated target lesions in the change in the sum of erythema, scale, and thickness scores from baseline to end of treatment.
Results: A total of 24 subjects completed the trial. Combination treatment with tacrolimus ointment or vehicle plus salicylic acid gel was well tolerated. There was greater improvement of the sum score in the tacrolimus plus salicylic acid-treated target plaques than in the vehicle plus salicylic acid-treated plaques at weeks 1, 2, and 8 (P<.05). The efficacy of this regimen was confirmed by investigator and subject global assessments of plaque severity.
Conclusions: The combination of 0.1% tacrolimus ointment and 6% salicylic acid gel is an effective treatment for psoriasis. Although the results reported herein are from a small exploratory study, the magnitude of the effect was sufficiently large as to be detectable with statistical significance (P<.05).