The dangers of desonide



In a previous column, I warned about the high cost of generic desonide. This month, I alert you to the many potential dangers of this drug. By the time I’m done, you may not want to go near the stuff.

To approve e-scribe refills, we all need to acknowledge warnings and dangers and click “Benefit outweighs risk” or “Previously tolerated” or some other option. But some of these warnings make me wonder who on earth writes them.

Desonide comes with more warnings than almost any other medicine I prescribe electronically. I counted 21 such warnings. Here are some examples:

1. Desonide External Cream 0.05% should be used cautiously in Bacterial Infection, especially in Systemic Bacterial Infection. Since Folliculitis is a specific form of Bacterial Infection, the same precaution may apply.

I confess that I never thought of prescribing desonide for Bacterial Infection, Systemic or otherwise. Have you? (By the way, what’s with the excess use of capital letters?)

The second warning is even more dramatic.

2. Desonide External Cream 0.05% should be used cautiously in Viral Infection, especially in Systemic Viral Infection.

What makes this even more curious is the Viral Infections the warnings go on to enumerate.

2a. Since Actinic Keratosis is a specific form of Viral Infection, the same precaution may apply.

Actinic Keratosis is a Viral Infection? I didn’t know that.

3. Since Actinic Keratosis of the Hands and Arms is a specific form of Viral Infection, the same precaution may apply.

Now we learn of different subgroups of Actinic Keratoses that are Viral Infections. Did they teach you these in Dermatology School? (Please see Warnings 6-10, below.)

4. This warning refers to a specific Bacterial Infection called Folliculitis Nares Perforans. I don’t know what that is, but it sounds bad. Glad they warned me.

5. Since Pseudofolliculitis Barbae is a specific form of Bacterial Infection, the same precaution may apply.

I never used much desonide for pseudofolliculitis, cautiously or otherwise.

Warnings 6-10 describe more specific forms of Viral Infection: (6) Non-Hyperkeratotic Actinic Keratosis, (7) Actinic Keratosis of Face and Anterior Scalp, (8) Non-Hyperkeratotic Non-Pigmented Actinic Keratosis, (9) Non-Hyperkeratotic Face and Scalp Actinic Keratosis, (10) Pigmented Actinic Keratosis.

This is most disturbing. What Systemic Viral Infections did they leave me to use desonide on? Hyperkeratotic Non-Pigmented Actinic Keratoses of the Posterior Scalp?

Warning 11 is another specific Bacterial Infection: Local Folliculitis. What is the opposite of Local Folliculitis? Express Folliculitis?

Warning 12 is Perioral Dermatitis. Steroids on rosacea? Really? Maybe a cheaper one.

I will now skip to warning 16: Hirsutism has been associated with Desonide External Cream 0.05%. Since Hair Disease is a more general form of Hirsutism, it may also be considered a drug-related medical condition.

Did you know that desonide causes unwanted hair growth? Or realize that Hair Disease is a more general form of Hirsutism? I myself have male-pattern baldness. (Sorry, Male-Pattern BALDNESS.) Since Baldness is a Hair Disease, is it also a more general form of Hirsutism? Instead of having too little hair, do I now have too much?

The same is true for warning 17, which is identical to 16, except that it substitutes “Hypertrichosis” for “Hirsutism.”

Okay, colleagues, it’s time for a personal reckoning. You trained, practiced, took CME, but you didn’t know about any of these risks, did you? You’ve just been just heedlessly, incautiously, throwing around desonide, producing hairy patients with Systemic Bacterial and Viral Infections. And on “Non-Hyperkeratotic Non-Pigmented Actinic Keratosis,” no less. Aren’t you disappointed in yourselves?

When I first read warnings like these, I wrote my EMR provider to ask who puts together this stuff, and which consultants vet it. They never answered. It is very hard to believe that a dermatologist was involved at any stage of developing these warnings, with their irrelevant caveats and absurd classification schemes.

Who would develop electronic prescribing guidelines without at least consulting the physicians who do the prescribing? Why would they want to?

Dr. Rockoff practices dermatology in Brookline, Mass., and is a longtime contributor to Dermatology News. He serves on the clinical faculty at Tufts University, Boston, and has taught senior medical students and other trainees for 30 years.

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