Safety of topical medications in the management of paediatric atopic dermatitis: An updated systematic review

Sharon Zhao, Austin Hwang, Corinne Miller, Peter Lio

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Aim: New topical agents have been developed for the treatment of atopic dermatitis (AD) in recent years. This systematic review is intended to synthesize the clinical trial literature and concisely report the updated safety and adverse effects of topical medications used to treat atopic dermatitis in children. Methods: A systematic search of Cochrane Library, Embase, PubMed and from inception to March 2022 was conducted for trials of topical medications used to treat AD in patients <18 years (PROSPERO #CRD42022315355). Included records were limited to English-language publications and studies of ≥3 weeks duration. Phase 1 studies and those that lacked separate paediatric safety reporting were excluded. Results: A total of 5005 records were screened; 75 records met inclusion criteria with 15 845 paediatric patients treated with tacrolimus, 12 851 treated with pimecrolimus, 3539 with topical corticosteroid (TCS), 700 with crisaborole and 202 with delgocitinib. Safety data was well reported in tacrolimus trials with the most frequently reported adverse events being burning sensation, pruritus and cutaneous infections. Two longitudinal cohort studies were included, one for tacrolimus and one for pimecrolimus, which found no significant increased risk of malignancy with topical calcineurin inhibitor (TCI) use in children. Skin atrophy was identified as an adverse event in TCS trials, which other medications did not. Systemic adverse events for the medications were largely common childhood ailments. Conclusion: Data discussed here support the use of steroid-sparing medications (tacrolimus, pimecrolimus, crisaborole, delgocitinib) as safe options with minimal adverse events for managing paediatric AD, although a larger number of TCI studies reported burning and pruritus compared to TCS studies. TCS was the only medication class associated with reports of skin atrophy in this review. The tolerability of these adverse events should be considered when treating young children. This review was limited to English-language publications and the variable safety reporting of trial investigators. Many newer medications were not included due to pooled adult and paediatric safety data that did not meet inclusion criteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2039-2065
Number of pages27
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • atopic dermatitis
  • calcineurin inhibitors
  • corticosteroids
  • safety
  • topical


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