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December 1995

The Antipruritic Effect of 5% Doxepin Cream in Patients With Eczematous Dermatitis

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Dermatology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston (Dr Drake), and the Department of Dermatology, Tulane University, New Orleans, La (Dr Mallikan). For a list of the members of the Doxepin Study Group, see box on page 1407.

Arch Dermatol. 1995;131(12):1403-1408. doi:10.1001/archderm.1995.01690240065010

Background and Design:  Eczematous dermatitis is commonly characterized by intense pruritus. Current treatment modalities for this condition, regardless of its cause, are primarily directed at blunting the cutaneous inflammatory response and thereby providing relief of pruritus. To expand on our previous findings in atopic dermatitis, the present multicenter double-blind trial was conducted to evaluate the safety and antipruritic efficacy of 5% doxepin hydrochloride cream in patients with lichen simplex chronicus (n=136), nummular eczema (n=87), or contact dermatitis (n=86). A total of 309 patients with moderate to severe pruritus were randomly assigned to apply either doxepin cream (n=154) or vehicle cream (n=155) to eczematous areas four times per day for a period of 7 days. Efficacy was assessed using a pruritus severity rating scale, a Physician's Global Evaluation for pruritus relief, and a Visual Analogue Scale for pruritus relief.

Results:  Twenty-four hours after initiation of treatment, and continuing throughout the remainder of the study, patients treated with doxepin cream experienced significantly greater pruritus relief than did vehicletreated patients as determined by all efficacy parameters (P<.002). Sixty percent of doxepin-treated patients experienced pruritus relief within 24 hours. The response rate increased to 84% by conclusion of the study. As judged by significant changes (P≤.05) occurring in at least one assessment of efficacy, doxepin cream provided pruritus relief in all forms of eczematous dermatitis that were examined. The study medication was well tolerated. The two most common adverse effects, stinging at the site of application and drowsiness, were usually transient and mild to moderate in severity.

Conclusion:  Topical application of doxepin provides significant antipruritic activity with a favorable safety profile, suggesting a role for doxepin cream in the symptomatic treatment of pruritus associated with eczematous dermatitis.(Arch Dermatol. 1995;131:1403-1408)

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