Assessment of topical corticosteroid activity using the vasoconstriction assay in healthy volunteers

Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2007;20(3):133-40. doi: 10.1159/000098164. Epub 2006 Dec 21.


Objective and design: The aim of the study was to evaluate the vasoconstrictive activity of four new galenic preparations of hydrocortisone and to compare it with concentration-equivalent reference preparations. The study comprised two study phases: the pilot study phase and the main study phase. During open, nonrandomized pilot study, the optimal administration period was tested. The main study was performed in a randomized, double-blind intraindividual comparative design.

Subjects: Twenty male and female volunteers with healthy skin who responded to topically applied clobetasol-17-propionate before entering the trial participated in this study.

Treatment: All subjects received the same treatments. The test preparations new galenic formulation (NGF) hydrocortisone 0.25% cream, NGF hydrocortisone acetate 0.25% cream, NGF hydrocortisone 0.5% cream, and NGF hydrocortisone 1.0% cream were compared with the respective reference preparations Soventol hydrocortisone (hydrocortisone acetate 0.25%), Hydroderm HC 0.5% cream (hydrocortisone 0.5%), Hydrogalen cream (hydrocortisone 1.0%) and placebo (vehicle of test preparations).

Method: The topical preparations were applied occlusively for 2 h (pilot study) or 24 h (main study) on outlined areas (5 x 5 cm with a distance of 3 cm) of both forearms (4 areas for each). Assessment of vasoconstriction was performed before treatment, and 0.5, 4, 6 and 24 h after treatment (observation period) using a subjective rating scale (OLSEN vasoconstriction score) and measuring the colorimetric parameter a* (redness) by use of the Chroma-Meter (Minolta company, Ahrensburg, Germany).

Results: A significant vasoconstriction (positive blanching effect) was measured by use of chromametry for test preparations hydrocortisone 0.25% cream, hydrocortisone 0.5% cream, hydrocortisone 1.0% cream and for the reference preparation Hydrogalen cream compared to placebo 30 min after the end of treatment. In contrast, the reference preparations Soventol hydrocortisone and Hydroderm HC 0.5% did not differ significantly from placebo 30 min after treatment. No statistically significant effect of all formulations was observed 4-24 h after treatment in comparison with placebo.

Conclusions: The vasoconstrictive efficacy of test preparations was mostly stronger than the concentration-equivalent reference preparations. This effect was achieved by use of new galenics of test preparations resulting in enhanced skin penetration and improved efficiency. No unwanted side effects were observed during the course of the study despite increased efficacy of the topically applied test preparations.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / metabolism
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biological Assay / methods
  • Biological Assay / standards
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / administration & dosage
  • Hydrocortisone / analogs & derivatives
  • Hydrocortisone / chemistry
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Hydrocortisone / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ointments
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reference Standards
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Skin Absorption
  • Time Factors
  • Vasoconstriction / drug effects*
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / administration & dosage
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / chemistry
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / metabolism
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Ointments
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • hydrocortisone acetate
  • Hydrocortisone