Topical tofacitinib for atopic dermatitis: a phase IIa randomized trial

Br J Dermatol. 2016 Nov;175(5):902-911. doi: 10.1111/bjd.14871. Epub 2016 Sep 24.


Background: Despite unmet need, 15 years have passed since a topical therapy with a new mechanism of action for atopic dermatitis (AD) has been approved. Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor treatment effect via topical application in patients with AD is unknown.

Objectives: Tofacitinib, a small-molecule JAK inhibitor, was investigated for the topical treatment of AD.

Methods: In this 4-week, phase IIa, randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled study (NCT02001181), 69 adults with mild-to-moderate AD were randomized 1:1 to 2% tofacitinib or vehicle ointment twice daily. Percentage change from baseline (CFB) in Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI) score at week 4 was the primary end point. Secondary efficacy end points included percentage CFB in body surface area (BSA), CFB in EASI Clinical Signs Severity Sum Score, proportion of patients with Physician's Global Assessment (PGA) response and CFB in patient-reported pruritus. Safety, local tolerability and pharmacokinetics were monitored.

Results: The mean percentage CFB at week 4 in EASI score was significantly greater (P < 0·001) for tofacitinib (-81·7%) vs. vehicle (-29·9%). Patients treated with tofacitinib showed significant (P < 0·001) improvements vs. vehicle across all prespecified efficacy end points and for pruritus at week 4. Significant improvements in EASI, PGA and BSA were observed by week 1 and improvements in pruritus were observed by day 2. Safety/local tolerability were generally similar for both treatments, although more adverse events were observed for vehicle vs. tofacitinib.

Conclusions: Tofacitinib ointment showed significantly greater efficacy vs. vehicle across end points, with early onset of effect and comparable safety/local tolerability to vehicle. JAK inhibition through topical delivery is potentially a promising therapeutic target for AD.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ointments
  • Piperidines / administration & dosage*
  • Piperidines / adverse effects
  • Piperidines / pharmacokinetics
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • Pyrimidines / administration & dosage*
  • Pyrimidines / adverse effects
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacokinetics
  • Pyrroles / administration & dosage*
  • Pyrroles / adverse effects
  • Pyrroles / pharmacokinetics
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Ointments
  • Piperidines
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Pyrimidines
  • Pyrroles
  • tofacitinib