Thalidomide Treatment for Prurigo Nodularis in Human Immunodeficiency Virus–Infected Subjects: Efficacy and Risk of Neuropathy

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To evaluate safety and efficacy of thalidomide in the treatment of prurigo nodularis in a group of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected patients whose condition was recalcitrant to standard treatment.


Prospective study.


Outpatient dermatology and neurology clinic, both referral settings.


Eight HIV-infected patients with refractory prurigo nodularis; a total of 10 met inclusion criteria, but 2 could not be followed up.


Treatment with thalidomide, 100 mg/d. Subjects were randomized after 1 month to receive 100 or 200 mg/d. If side effects were noted, the drug was reduced to a tolerable dose or discontinued. Subjects were monitored at baseline and monthly for degree of pruritus and total area of body involvement of prurigo nodularis. Sequential neurologic assessments were performed.

Main Outcome Measures

Efficacy and toxic effects.


The dosage of thalidomide ranged from 33 to 200 mg/d. Eight subjects had a greater than 50% response in reduction of itch over 3.4 months (average). Seven subjects had a greater than 50% reduction of skin involvement over 5 months (average). Three subjects developed thalidomide peripheral neuropathy (TPN). There was no correlation between duration of treatment, daily or cumulative dose, and TPN. A change in the Neuropathy Impairment Score of 10 points was a good marker of TPN, as was a greater than 50% decrease in the sural sensory nerve action potential amplitude.


Thalidomide reduced the signs and symptoms of prurigo nodularis in HIV-infected subjects. One third of subjects developed TPN, underscoring the importance of careful neurologic assessment.

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