Successful systemic treatment outcomes of lichen planus: A single-center retrospective review

Dermatol Ther. 2021 May;34(3):e14903. doi: 10.1111/dth.14903. Epub 2021 Mar 7.


Lichen planus (LP) affects up to 4% of adults and can cause significant distress and morbidity, especially to those with persistent disease. As many as 20% of patients with LP may exhibit widespread or recalcitrant disease necessitating systemic treatment options. We sought to evaluate the effectiveness of systemic treatments for severe and recalcitrant LP not responsive to topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors. Over a 10-year period, 374 patients with cutaneous and mucosal LP were evaluated at a major regional tertiary medical center; 94 qualified for inclusion in the study. In all, 26 (28%) patients achieved remission, 52 (55%) experienced stable disease control, and 16 (17%) failed all attempted treatments. Among medications most trialed, intramuscular triamcinolone (IM TAC), hydroxychloroquine, and methotrexate were most successful with 79%, 61%, and 42% respective response rates. In contrast, oral corticosteroids and dapsone were less frequently successful at rates of 24% and 20%. IM TAC represented the highest level of treatment success and was statistically significant compared to other systemic treatments (P < .01). Among adjuvant therapies, intralesional triamcinolone (IL TAC) demonstrated higher success (71%) than oral corticosteroids (29%). Based on this multi-year evaluation, we recommend that clinicians consider IM TAC as a first-line systemic option for severe or refractory LP, with hydroxychloroquine as the steroid-sparing treatment of choice. For patients requiring adjuvant therapy, IL TAC should be considered to hasten response and symptom relief. Patients with severe or widespread disease may benefit from earlier initiation of systemic therapy to prevent significant morbidity and impact on daily function.

Keywords: hydroxychloroquine; intramuscular; lichen planus; systemic; triamcinolone.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Calcineurin Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Lichen Planus* / diagnosis
  • Lichen Planus* / drug therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Triamcinolone


  • Calcineurin Inhibitors
  • Triamcinolone