Treatment of head and neck dermatitis comparing itraconazole 200 mg and 400 mg daily for 1 week with placebo

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Head and neck dermatitis (HND) is a variant of atopic dermatitis often seen in young adults. A hypersensitivity to Malassezi antigens is considered to be of pathogenic importance. Previous mostly uncontrolled studies have shown that oral antimycotics might be of use in this condition.


To evaluate the efficacy of itraconazole in the treatment of HND in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.


Adult patients with HND were included. Systemic steroids and oral/topical antimycotics were avoided 1 and 2 months prior to the trial. Topical steroids were not allowed in the head and neck area within 2 weeks. Patients in generally good health were included and female patients had to have had a negative urine pregnancy test. The patients signed an informed consent.

Study design

The study included a 7-day treatment period and a follow-up period of 105 days. Control visits were carried out on days 3, 7 and 14 and after 15 weeks.


The SCORAD index (one for the head and neck area and one for the remaining surface area) and global evaluations by patient and investigator were used for clinical evaluation at each visit. Prick tests with Malassezia antigens and Candida albicans antigen were carried out at the start of the trial and included positive and negative controls. The patients were randomized into three groups, which were treated with 400 mg itraconazole daily, 200 mg itraconazole daily or placebo, respectively, for 7 days.


The number of patients included was 53: 18 had 200 mg itraconazole daily, 17 had 400 mg itraconazole daily and 18 placebo. At days 7 and 14, significant improvement was seen in the SCORAD of the head and neck area for the groups given 400 mg itraconazole daily (P = 0.0385 and P = 0.0134), and 200 mg daily (P = 0.0104 and P = 0.0006). Patients in the placebo group improved slightly (P = 0.0785). At day 14, comparison of improvement of SCORAD of the head and neck area between all three groups showed a significant difference in favour of the 200 mg itraconazole group compared to the placebo group (P = 0.0318). The prick test was positive for Pityrosporum ovale in 37% and negative for C. albicans in all patients.


One week of treatment with 200 or 400 mg itraconazole as a single treatment has a significant effect on the head and neck area. Compared to placebo there was a significant improvement in SCORAD of the head and neck area in favour of the 200 mg itraconazole group after 14 days. The important observation seems to be that antifungal systemic treatment has a significant SCORAD reduction of atopic dermatitis, irrespective of the presence of allergy.

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