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Elidel (pimecrolimus)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2023 | Last updated: September 2023

Elidel® (pimecrolimus) is a topical treatment option that may be recommended for people with plaque psoriasis. Elidel comes in a cream. It is mainly used to treat the symptoms of another type of skin condition called eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis).1

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved Elidel for treating eczema in people at least 2 years old. But in some cases, doctors will recommend that people with plaque psoriasis try treatment with Elidel. This is called off-label use. An off-label drug is one that has not been approved by the FDA)to treat a certain condition. This also means the FDA has not yet determined the drug is safe and effective when used the way you are taking it.2,3

Off-label use of Elidel is usually recommended if a person has tried treatment with other types of topical drugs that have been approved for treating psoriasis but these other medicines have not worked well enough or caused unwanted side effects.3

Unlike topical corticosteroids, Elidel does not cause skin thinning. This makes it ideal for treating areas where the skin is especially thin and/or sensitive, such as around the eyes, face, genitals, and skin folds.3

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What are the ingredients in Elidel?

The active ingredient in Elidel is pimecrolimus.1

How does Elidel work?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes special cells called T-cells to activate and trigger inflammation that is not needed. This inflammation causes too many new skin cells to be produced, which causes skin cells to build up and form plaques.4

Elidel works by preventing the T-cells from activating, which reduces inflammation, skin redness, and itching. It may also help to reduce plaques.1

What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of Elidel include:1

  • Burning or feeling of warmth at the skin application site
  • Headache
  • Common cold, stuffy nose, sore throat
  • Cough
  • Flu
  • Fever
  • Viral infections, such as cold sores, chickenpox, shingles, or warts

Elidel has a boxed warning, the strictest warning from the FDA. It has this warning because people who take it may have a slightly higher risk of certain types of cancers, such as skin tumors and lymphoma. To be safe, this drug is not recommended for long-term use.1

These are not all the possible side effects of Elidel. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when using Elidel. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when using Elidel.1

Other things to know

Before starting treatment with Elidel, tell your doctor if you have:1

  • A skin disease called Netherton’s syndrome (a rare inherited condition)
  • Any infection on your skin, including chickenpox or herpes
  • Been told you have a weakened immune system

There is not enough data to know if Elidel is safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding. Before starting treatment with Elidel, tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. They can help you decide if Elidel is right for you.1

Wash your hands before using Elidel. If you apply Elidel after a bath or shower, make sure your skin is dry first.1

Do not bathe, shower, or swim right after applying Elidel. This may wash off the cream.1

Do not use sun lamps, tanning beds, or get treatment with ultraviolet light therapy during treatment with Elidel.1

Limit time in the sun during treatment with Elidel, even if the medicine is not on your skin. If you need to be outdoors after applying Elidel, wear protective clothing. Ask your doctor what other types of sun protection you should use.1

Before beginning treatment for plaque psoriasis, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

For more information, read the full prescribing information of Elidel.