Background and design: The combination of nicotinamide and tetracycline has been anecdotally reported to be effective in the treatment of bullous pemphigoid. We conducted a randomized, open-labeled trial comparing the combination of 500 mg of nicotinamide, three times daily, and 500 mg of tetracycline four times daily, with prednisone therapy in 20 patients with bullous pemphigoid. The study was divided between an 8-week acute phase with fixed drug dosages and a 10-month follow-up phase in which study medications were tapered based on patient response.
Results: Eighteen of 20 patients enrolled in the study were treated, two patients were unavailable for follow-up. Twelve patients were treated with the combination of nicotinamide and tetracycline and six patients were treated with prednisone. There were five complete responses, five partial responses, one nonresponder, and one patient with disease progression in the nicotinamide and tetracycline group compared with one complete response and five partial responses in the prednisone group. There were no statistically significant differences in response parameters between the two groups. All five patients in the nicotinamide and tetracycline group receiving long-term follow-up remained disease free during medication tapering, while three patients in the prednisone group had repeated disease flare-ups with steroid tapering. Adverse effects in the nicotinamide and tetracycline group included gastrointestinal upset (two patients) and transient renal failure (one patient). In the prednisone group, there was one occurrence each of hypertension, erosive gastritis, multiple decubitus ulcers, osteomyelitis, deep venous thrombosis, and death related to sepsis. Two patients required insulin therapy for hyperglycemia.
Conclusions: The combination of nicotinamide and tetracycline appears to be a useful alternative to systemic steroids in the treatment of bullous pemphigoid.