Background: Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic, relapsing, itchy dermatosis of multifactorial origin, which commonly starts in childhood. Defective metabolism of essential fatty acids leading to relative dominance of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGE2 and PGF2) has been reported as an important factor in the pathogenesis of AD. Evening primrose oil (EPO) as a source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) has been of interest in the management of AD.
Aim: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of EPO in atopic dermatitis in our patients.
Methods: Consecutive new out-patient department (OPD) patients of a referral hospital in Kolkata clinically diagnosed as having AD were randomly allocated to two groups. To the first group, evening primrose oil was supplied as 500-mg oval clear unmarked capsules, while placebo capsules identical in appearance and containing 300 mg of sunflower oil were given to the other group. Treatment continued for a period of 5 months. With pre-designed scoring system (based on four major parameters: extent, intensity, itching, and dryness), clinical evaluation was done at baseline and subsequent monthly visits. Data of the first 25 patients from each group who completed the 5 months of trial were compiled and analyzed.
Results: At the end of the fifth month, 24 (96%) patients of EPO group and 8 (32%) patients of placebo group showed improvement. There was significant difference in outcome of treatment between two groups (P<0.00001). No significant adverse effect was reported by any patient/guardian at any point of assessment.
Conclusion: Evening primrose oil is a safe and effective medicine in management of AD. However, since not all researchers across the world have found the same good result, further large trials on Indian patients are needed.