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Arch Dermatol. 1999 Sep;135(9):1079-87.

American experience with low-dose thalidomide therapy for severe cutaneous lupus erythematosus.

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  • 1Olean Medical Group, NY, USA.



There is a renewed interest in thalidomide therapy after its surprising effectiveness in treating erythema nodosum leprosum was first published. Thalidomide has subsequently been reported to be effective in treating a number of dermatoses, including cutaneous lupus erythematosus. We examined the efficacy and adverse effects of low-dose, long-term thalidomide monotherapy in 7 patients with various forms of cutaneous lupus erythematosus that were unresponsive to traditional systemic treatments.


Six of the 7 patients treated with thalidomide after discontinuation of other oral agents had complete or marked resolution of their previously treatment-resistant cutaneous lesions, with an average response time of 2.2+/-0.8 months. Our cohort of 7 patients with cutaneous lupus erythematosus was treated with thalidomide therapy for an average of 2.4+/-3.1 years (range, 1 month to 9 years). The most common adverse effects were sedation, constipation, and weight gain. Two patients reported experiencing intermittent shaking episodes, an adverse effect not previously reported in the literature. Four patients reported symptoms of paresthesia, but none was found to be caused by thalidomide-induced peripheral neuropathy.


A low starting dose of thalidomide as a monotherapy with continued sun avoidance is a safe and effective treatment for the various cutaneous manifestations of lupus erythematosus after traditional therapeutic options have failed to control disease. Our experience with low-dose, long-term thalidomide therapy suggests that peripheral neuropathy is not as common as suggested by other studies (up to 50% of patients treated with thalidomide in some series).

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