Healthy Living

New Eczema Drug Brings Long-Awaited Relief

Apr. 3, 2017

Although it’s the most common skin disease in the world, there’s been no safe, effective treatment for people who suffer from moderate-to-severe eczema. UR Medicine Dermatologist Dr. Lisa Beck explains how a new drug will be life-changing for many.graphic of person writing the work eczema

Imagine having a severe case of poison ivy covering half of your body that, despite everything you try, never goes away. That’s what life is like for people with moderate-to-severe eczema or atopic dermatitis (AD).

It’s the reason we are so excited about the FDA’s approval of Dupilumab, a drug we’ve tested at URMC for years in our quest to help people whose lives are disrupted by this level of AD.

AD impacts 7 to 9 percent of adults who suffer from severely dry skin, red lesions that may crust or ooze, skin thickening and intense itching, which may lead to skin wounds, infections, sleep disturbance and depression.

About 3 percent of adults have moderate-to-severe disease and have had to rely on topical prescription treatments and even oral steroids that provided temporarily relief at best and are not safe for long-term use. Since most adults with AD have had their disease for decades, these tools didn’t offer a long-term solution; patients felt desperate and the doctors who care for them felt frustrated by their inability to ease their suffering.

The new drug, Dupilumab, is a biologic given by injection. It works by blocking the actions of two proteins in the body that play a key in role AD. It’s the first systemic (non-steroid) drug for AD and, unlike topical medications that act locally, it affects allergic inflammation in all organs. People with AD are also more likely to have asthma and other allergic disorders such as hay fever which, for many, the new drug also appears to help.

This is a watershed moment for the treatment of adults with AD, some of whom have been suffering for decades with intractable itch and extensive skin disease. Until now, we’ve had nothing new to offer them so this is a real game-changer.

We’re fortunate to have been part of the earliest testing of this drug, including a three-year trial to test its efficacy and safety. These clinical trials showed that Dupilumab rapidly and significantly improved the skin appearance and the severity of itch in patients with few side effects.

Dupilumab, which will be sold under the name Dupixent, was approved by the FDA on March 28, 2017. It typically takes one to three weeks from FDA approval before a drug becomes available for doctors to prescribe.

If you’re interested in being evaluated for AD, please call (585) 275-7546.

Studies to test the safety and efficacy of the drug in children 12 to 18 years of age will begin enrollment soon at our Dermatology Clinical Trials Unit. If you are interested, please call (585) 275-0374.


Lisa Beck MD


Lisa Beck, M.D., Dean’s Professor of Dermatology at URMC, has more than 20 years of experience in studying and treating atopic dermatitis and eczema. She has served as a consultant with Regeneron and Sanofi, who funded the Dupilumab studies.