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Quick Study

QUICK STUDY : A weekly digest of new research on major health topics

Tuesday, January 4, 2005; Page HE06


An AIDS-related drug may help when standard treatment fails.

THE QUESTION When the skin on a hand becomes chronically inflamed, sometimes accompanied by itching, redness and cracking, corticosteroid creams often are prescribed. But this treatment does not work for everyone. Might oral alitretinoin -- the pill form of a drug used to treat skin lesions in people with AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma -- be a viable alternative?

THIS STUDY randomly assigned 319 people with chronic, moderate to severe hand dermatitis to take up to 40 milligrams of alitretinoin or a placebo daily. After 12 weeks, the condition had cleared up in 53 percent of those taking the largest dose, compared with 27 percent for the placebo group. Lesser doses were also superior to the placebo.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? People with chronic hand dermatitis.

CAVEATS Most participants were men; women who could become pregnant were excluded from the study. Twenty-four percent of participants did not complete the study, most citing insufficient results as their reason for withdrawing. Side effects, most often headache, were reported by about half of those taking the largest dose. All 11 of the study's authors reported financial ties to the study's funder, Basilea Pharmaceutical, a maker of alitretinoin.

BOTTOM LINE People with hand dermatitis, especially those who have not responded to other treatments, may want to ask a doctor about alitretinoin.

FIND THIS STUDY December issue of the Archives of Dermatology; abstract available online at www.archdermatol.com.

LEARN MORE ABOUT dermatitis at www.familydoctor.organd www.mayoclinic.org.

Pain relief

Suddenly stopping NSAIDs may raise the risk of a heart attack.

THE QUESTION People trying to cope with the long-term pain of conditions such as arthritis or tendinitis often take NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Does stopping these drugs pose any risks?

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