Phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitors

Zebda, R.; Paller, A. S.

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017 Dec 19; 78(3s1):S43-s52


Historically, drugs available for treating atopic dermatitis (AD) have been limited to topical corticosteroids and topical calcineurin inhibitors, with systemic immunosuppressants and phototherapy reserved for severe AD. Despite their efficacy and infrequent adverse events, phobia about the use of topical steroids and calcineurin inhibitors has limited their use. More targeted options with fewer systemic and cutaneous side effects are needed for treating AD. Phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) is involved in the regulation of proinflammatory cytokines via the degradation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate. PDE4 activity is increased in the inflammatory cells of patients with AD, leading to increased production of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Targeting PDE4 reduces the production of these proinflammatory mediators in AD. Both topical and oral PDE4 inhibitors have a favorable safety profile. Crisaborole 2% ointment, a topical PDE4, is now US Food and Drug Administration-approved for children older than 2 years and adults in the treatment of AD. Crisaborole 2% ointment shows early and sustained improvement in disease severity and pruritus and other AD symptoms, with burning and/or stinging upon application as the only related adverse event. Other PDE4 inhibitors are currently in trials with promising efficacy and safety.

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