Treatment of antiviral-resistant recurrent erythema multiforme with dapsone

Dermatol Ther. 2017 Mar;30(2). doi: 10.1111/dth.12449. Epub 2016 Nov 18.


Recurrent erythema multiforme (REM) is a chronic disease characterized by frequent episodes of target cutaneous lesions in an acral distribution. Conventional treatment includes systemic corticosteroids and antiviral therapy. The aim of this study was to evaluate dapsone as a potential steroid sparing-agent for the treatment of REM after a failed trial of at least one antiviral therapy (acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir). A retrospective chart review was conducted on thirteen patients with a diagnosis of REM who underwent treatment with dapsone after failing at least one antiviral therapy. Out of 13 patients, 6 showed complete response (CR) and 5 showed partial response (PR). The underlying cause was identified in 5 patients with all showing at least PR. Adverse effects, observed in 4 patients, included fatigue, macrocytic anemia, anxiety, insomnia and involuntary movements, and drug-induced lupus erythematosus. A continuous course of dapsone, titrated up from 25 mg/day to a dose at which clinical improvement is seen with acceptable patient tolerance, is a viable steroid sparing-agent for REM treatment after a failed trial of antiviral therapy.

Keywords: dapsone; erythema multiforme.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Infective Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Dapsone / adverse effects
  • Dapsone / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance
  • Erythema Multiforme / diagnosis
  • Erythema Multiforme / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Dapsone