Oral Treatments for Toenail Onychomycosis: A Systematic Review | Dermatology | JAMA Dermatology | JAMA Network
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Evidence-Based Dermatology: Original Contribution
June 2002

Oral Treatments for Toenail Onychomycosis: A Systematic Review

Author Affiliations

DamianoAbeniMD, MPHRosamariaCoronaDSc, MDPaoloPasquiniMD, MPHMichael E.BigbyMDMoysesSzkloMD, MPH, DrPHHywelWilliamsMD

Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(6):811-816. doi:10.1001/archderm.138.6.811

Objective  To identify and synthesize the evidence for the efficacy of oral treatments for fungal infections of the toenails.

Design  Systematic review of randomized controlled trials.

Interventions  Oral treatments for dermatophyte infections of the toenails.

Main Outcome Measures  Cure confirmed by microscopy and culture results in patients with clinically diagnosed fungal infections. Data relating to the clinical cure rates were also extracted from the trials.

Results  A pooled analysis of 2 trials comparing mycological cure rates from continuous treatment with terbinafine (250 mg/d for 12 weeks) and continuous treatment with itraconazole (200 mg/d for 12 weeks) found a statistically significant difference in 11- and 12-month outcomes in favor of terbinafine (risk difference, −0.23 [95% confidence interval, −0.32 to −0.15]; number needed to treat, 5 [95% confidence interval, 4 to 8]). An analysis of clinical cure rates was not possible because of the diversity of definitions used in researching the effectiveness of oral antifungal drugs for onychomycosis. Only 3 trials gave a clear definition of clinical cure and presented data for these outcomes.

Conclusions  There is good evidence that a continuous regimen of terbinafine (250 mg/d) for 3 months is the most effective oral treatment for fungally infected toenails. Consensus among researchers evaluating oral antifungal drugs for onychomycosis is needed to establish meaningful definitions of clinical cure. Most trials were funded by the pharmaceutical industry; we found little independent research, and this may have introduced bias to the review.