Sixty of 77 (79%) IEC members participated. Consensus was reached on 12 statements, including that systemic corticosteroids should generally be avoided but can be used rarely for severe atopic dermatitis under certain circumstances, including a lack of other treatment options, as a bridge to other systemic therapies or phototherapy, during acute flares in need of immediate relief, in anticipation of a major life event or in the most severe cases. If used, treatment should be limited to short-term. Most respondents agreed that systemic corticosteroids should never be used in children, but consensus was not reached on that statement. The conclusions of our expert group are limited by a dearth of high-quality published evidence. If more stringent consensus criteria were applied (., requiring <20% of respondents marking towards “strongly disagree,” consensus would have been reached on fewer statements.
Three head to head trials involving 148 patients (74 systemic corticosteroids; 74 comparator drugs) were included. Placebo-controlled trials were not found. In the studies, different kinds of systemic corticosteroids and different kinds of control drugs were used, both administered in different routes. Intramuscular triamcinolone acetonide was compared respectively to oral indomethacine, and intramuscular adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH); oral prednisolone (together with a single intramuscular diclophenac injection) was compared to oral indomethacine (together with a single placebo injection). Outcome measurements varied: average number of days until total relief of signs, mean decrease of pain per unit of time in mm on a visual analogue scale (VAS) - during rest and activity. In the triamcinolone-indomethacine trial the clinical joint status was used as an additional outcome . Clinically relevant differences between the studied systemic corticosteroids and the comparator drugs were not found; important safety problems attributable to the used corticosteroids were not reported. The quality of the three studies was graded as very low to moderate. Statistical pooling of results was not possible.