Residents’ Corner

Update on New Drugs in Dermatology

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Medications in dermatology are used in a variety of different methods and dosages and for numerous different diseases entities that are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); however, there are medications that have only recently hit the market that require our attention, as they are either FDA approved for the intended dermatologic use or could be effective in treating conditions that previously have been poorly managed.



CenterWatch ( is an online resource that provides directories, analysis, and market research of medications that are either under clinical evaluation or available for use in patients. A list of currently approved drugs by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also is available by specialty. It is important for dermatologists in-training to know about recently approved drugs and those that are in the pipeline, as these treatments may benefit patients who are unresponsive to other previously used medications. New drugs also may be useful for physicians who have a difficult time getting insurance to cover prescriptions for their patients, as most new medications have built-in patient assistance.

New Drugs in Dermatology

Actinic Keratosis

Ameluz (aminolevulinic acid hydrochloride)(Biofrontera AG) is a new drug that was approved in May 2016 for treatment of mild to moderate actinic keratosis on the face and scalp.1 It is only intended for in-office use on patients who may not be candidates for other treatment options for actinic keratosis. The product is a gel formulation that should be applied to cover the lesions and approximately 5 mm of the surrounding area with a film of approximately 1-mm thickness. The entire treatment area is then illuminated with a red light source, either with a narrow spectrum around 630 nm with a light dose of approximately 37 J/cm2 or a broader and continuous spectrum in the range of 570 to 670 nm with a light dose between 75 and 200 J/cm2.1 Similar to the previously used aminolevulinic acid treatment method for actinic keratosis, the patient may experience a burning stinging sensation throughout the treatment and the skin will then proceed to peel.

Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

Taltz (ixekizumab)(Eli Lilly and Company) was approved by the FDA in March 2016 for the treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.2 It is a humanized IL-17A antagonist that works when IgG4 monoclonal antibodies selectively bind with IL-17A cytokines and inhibit their interaction with the IL-17 receptor. Although this injectable medication is approved for the treatment of psoriasis, it also can potentially be used off label for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The approved dosage is 160 mg (two 80-mg injections) at week 0, followed by 80 mg at weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12, then 80 mg every 4 weeks.2 Injectable immunomodulatory medications such as ixekizumab are ideal for patients in whom topical treatments and light therapy failed and they continue to have serious psoriatic discomfort as well as for those who have substantial body surface area coverage.


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