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Br J Dermatol. 2017 Apr;176(4):910-927. doi: 10.1111/bjd.14999. Epub 2017 Mar 5.

What is the evidence base for atopic eczema treatments? A summary of published randomized controlled trials.

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Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology, University of Nottingham, King's Meadow Campus, Lenton Lane, Nottingham, NG7 2NR, U.K.


Atopic eczema (AE) is a common chronic inflammatory skin condition. While many AE treatment options are available, the evidence to support their efficacy varies in depth and quality. In 2000, a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment systematic review identified and evaluated existing randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of AE treatments. To ensure continuing utility, the NIHR commissioned an update to the review. Here, we present an overview of the updated report and its key findings. Systematic reviews and RCTs of AE treatments that included participants with AE (criteria based or diagnosed) were identified using Medline, Embase, CENTRAL, Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences, Allied and Complementary Medicine Database, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature and Cochrane Skin Group Specialised Register [searched to 31 August 2013 (RCTs) and 31 December 2015 (systematic reviews)]. Outcome measures included symptoms, AE severity, quality of life and adverse effects. Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration risk of bias tool. Of the 287 new RCTs identified, only 22 (8%) were judged to have a low risk of bias. When combined with RCTs from the previous review (n = 254), we found 'reasonable evidence of benefit' for corticosteroids, calcineurin inhibitors, Atopiclair® , ciclosporin, azathioprine, ultraviolet radiation and education programmes. Interventions with reasonable evidence of 'no benefit' included some dietary interventions, ion exchange water softeners, multiple daily applications of topical corticosteroids and antibiotic-containing corticosteroids for noninfected AE. Many common treatments lack evidence of efficacy and warrant further evaluation. The evidence base for AE is still hampered by poor trial design and reporting. The trials included in this review were used to establish the Global Resource of EczemA Trials (GREAT) database.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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