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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Aug;128(2):353-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2011.03.024. Epub 2011 Apr 22.

A randomized trial of methotrexate versus azathioprine for severe atopic eczema.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Patients with severe atopic eczema frequently require systemic treatment to control their disease. Methotrexate and azathioprine are proposed as off-label treatment options, but direct comparisons are lacking.


We sought to compare the efficacy and safety of methotrexate versus azathioprine in adults with severe atopic eczema.


Patients with severe atopic eczema were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive either methotrexate (dosage, 10-22.5 mg/wk) or azathioprine (dosage, 1.5-2.5 mg/kg/d) for 12 weeks, followed by a 12-week follow-up period. Primary outcome was the mean change in the severity scoring of atopic dermatitis index after 12 weeks. Efficacy assessors blinded for allocation of treatment were used to perform clinical outcome assessment. Analyses were done on an intention-to-treat basis.


Of the 45 patients screened, 42 were included. At week 12, patients in the methotrexate group had a mean relative reduction in the severity scoring of atopic dermatitis index of 42% (SD, 18%) compared with 39% (SD, 25%) in the azathioprine group (P = .52). Proportions of patients achieving at least mild disease and reductions on impact of quality of life, symptoms, and levels of thymus and activation-regulated chemokine were similar in both groups at weeks 12 and 24. No statistically significant differences were found in the number and severity of adverse events. Abnormalities in blood count were more common in the azathioprine group. No serious adverse events occurred.


Both treatments achieved clinically relevant improvement and were safe in the short term. Methotrexate and azathioprine are appropriate options for the treatment of severe atopic eczema.

Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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