Introduction: Treatment for erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL), an immunological complication of leprosy, is diverse. We undertook a systematic review as it was not clear which treatments were most beneficial.
Methods: We did a systematic search to identify randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing treatment with placebo, no treatment or another therapy. Two authors assessed quality and checked data.
Results: We included 13 studies involving 445 participants. These trials assessed: betamethasone, thalidomide, pentoxifylline, clofazimine, indomethacin and levamisole. The quality of the trials was generally poor and no results could be pooled due to the treatments being so heterogeneous. Treatment with thalidomide showed a significant benefit compared to aspirin (RR 2.43; 95% CI 1.28 to 4.59). Clofazimine treatment was superior to prednisolone (more treatment successes; RR 3.67; 95% CI 136 to 9.91) and thalidomide (fewer recurrences; RR 0.08; 95% CI 0.01, 0-56). Minor adverse events were significantly lower in participants on a low dose thalidomide regimen compared to a high dose thalidomide regimen (RR 0.46; 95% CI 0.23 to 0.93). Significantly more minor adverse events were reported in participants taking clofazimine compared with prednisolone (RR 1.92; 95% CI 1.10 to 3.35). None of the studies assessed quality of life or economic outcomes.
Conclusion: There is some evidence of benefit for thalidomide and clofazimine, but generally we did not find clear benefits for interventions in the management of ENL. This does not mean they do not work because the studies were small and poorly reported. Larger studies using clear definitions and internationally recognised scales are urgently required.