, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 159–179

Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis and Impact on Quality of Life

A Review with Emphasis on Topical Non-Corticosteroids


    • Department of DermatologyUniversity of Regensburg
  • Julia Schiffner-Rohe
    • Department of DermatologyUniversity of Regensburg
  • Michael Landthaler
    • Department of DermatologyUniversity of Regensburg
  • Wilhelm Stolz
    • Clinic of Dermatology and AllergologyHospital Munich-Schwabing
Review Article

DOI: 10.2165/00019053-200321030-00002

Cite this article as:
Schiffner, R., Schiffner-Rohe, J., Landthaler, M. et al. Pharmacoeconomics (2003) 21: 159. doi:10.2165/00019053-200321030-00002


Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic skin disease with increasing prevalence and rising costs. Stigmatisation and pruritus are only some aspects of potential quality-of-life (QOL) impairments. AD is not curable and repeated treatments are often necessary. At present, treatment with topically-applied corticosteroids is state-of-the-art for mild to moderate flare-ups. However, many patients are worried about the use of corticosteroids due to the widespread fear of adverse effects.

In this review the present literature is analysed concerning impact on quality of life for topically-applicable alternatives to the state-of-the-art treatment. For comparison reasons, data from other treatment modalities are additionally given. Characteristics of studies were analysed using ‘general’ (year and mode of publication, type and aim of study, number of patients, and clinical measurement) and ‘QOL specific’ criteria (type and number of QOL measurements including relevance for study aim and age group, validation in used language, sensitivity to change, and improvement at end of study).

QOL data are published only in the minority of studies evaluating treatment efficacy and do not cover the variety of possible therapies. Data are available for tacrolimus, pimecrolimus, UVA/UVB combination and UVB narrowband (topical non-corticosteroidal treatments), as well as for topical corticosteroids, cyclosporin, and inpatient treatment. All studies provided a marked improvement in quality of life after therapy. One study assessed quality of life after a treatment-free follow-up period obtaining a clear increase in impact on quality of life. Since studies used different QOL measurements and vary in inclusion criteria, treatment schedules and presentation of results, a comparison of QOL improvement is not recommended. A single randomised study compared topically applied non-corticosteroidal treatment (UVA/UVB combination) with another treatment modality (cyclosporin) and found no difference in QOL improvement.

At present, there is a clear lack of controlled randomised studies evaluating different active treatment modalities and their impact on quality of life. Consensus meetings are desirable to formulate guidelines for the selection and correct use of QOL measurements. Patients’ fear of side effects (e.g. concerning corticosteroids) should be integrated in QOL questionnaires for evaluation of possible compliance problems and real costs. Since relapse after treatment is frequent in AD, QOL measurements should also be performed after a treatment-free follow-up period. At present, we can not answer the question ‘which treatment best improves quality of life in AD?’.

Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2003