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Research project

Topical anti-inflammatory treatments for eczema: a network meta-analysis

  • Other researchers:
  • Research funder:
    National Institute of Health and Care Research
  • Status:
    Not active

Project overview

To improve the lives of people with eczema by systematically reviewing and analysing the best available data on effectiveness and safety of anti-inflammatory treatments applied to the skin.

Eczema affects up to 20% of young children and 5% of adults, has a significant quality of life impact and is not currently preventable or curable. The two core treatments for eczema are: (1) moisturisers to prevent dry skin and flare-ups; and (2) anti-inflammatory treatments applied topically (directly to the skin), including corticosteroids and newer treatments such as calcineurin inhibitors. Anti-inflammatory treatments are essential eczema treatments as they control inflammation, which is the process leading to redness and itch. In 2018 the NHS in England spent over £70 million on community prescriptions for 226 different topical anti-inflammatory treatments for managing eczema. Over 50 new products are currently being tested in over 200 ongoing clinical trials of topical eczema treatments. Currently, it is not possible to identify which is the safest and most effective topical treatment for eczema, because few direct head-to-head comparisons of one topical anti-inflammatory treatment with another have been undertaken. A review in 2016 found that the majority of clinical trials in this area compare topical treatments to placebo or ‘dummy’ topical treatment.
MethodsWe will examine all existing clinical trials on topical anti-inflammatory treatements for eczema to see whether they differ in terms of effectiveness and side effects. We will combine the information from published trials of eczema treatments using a technique called network meta-analysis. Comparing outcomes using network meta-analysis allows us to make comparisons between topical treatments, even if treatments have not been directly compared in the original trials.


Other researchers

Professor Miriam Santer

Professor of Primary Care Research

Research interests

  • Self-management of long-term conditions
  • Primary Care Dermatology - particularly eczema, acne and cellulitis
  • Mixed methods research including development and evaluation of complex interventions
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