What Is Vectical (Calcitriol)?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2022. | Last updated: July 2022

Calcitriol is a topical treatment for plaque psoriasis symptoms that is sold in the United States under the brand name Vectical. It is only available by prescription from a healthcare provider. It is generally prescribed for the treatment of mild and moderate psoriasis symptoms in adults with psoriasis1.

Vectical comes in the form of an ointment that is usually applied directly to the skin twice a day, in the morning and at night. It is not for use on the face, the lips, or around the eyes, but it can be applied to most other areas of the body2.

The active ingredient in Vectical, calcitriol, is a type of medicine that is made from a form of vitamin D3 that occurs naturally. This is related to the type of synthetic (man-made) vitamin D3 that is found in medicines such as Dovonex, Taclonex, and Enstilar3.

How does Vectical (calcitriol) work to treat plaque psoriasis symptoms?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which excess inflammation causes a patient’s body to produce too many new skin cells before the old skin cells can be shed naturally. The new skin cells push the older ones to the surface, where they build up and cause psoriasis plaques. Researchers believe that calcitriol works by helping to reduce the number of new skin cells that are produced, by binding to the vitamin D receptors in skin cells.2

During studies to test the effectiveness of Vectical, many patients treated with the ointment had improvements in their symptoms after two weeks. By the end of the 8-week study, 34% of patients treated with Vectical had clear or minimal symptoms and 32% had a significant improvement in their symptoms3.

What are the common side effects of taking Vectical (calcitriol)?

Vectical can be used for a longer period of time than other types of topical medicines, such as corticosteroids, that can cause very serious side effects if they are taken for too long.

The most common side effects that are caused by treatment with Vectical include1:

  • Increased levels of calcium in the blood
  • itching
  • skin discomfort

In some people, using Vectical can change the way that your body processes calcium. Around one-quarter of patients who use Vectical will experience an increased calcium level in their urine. However, this increase is not generally dangerous, and the calcium level returns to normal after treatment is stopped. Healthcare providers monitor patients for this side effect while they are being treated with Vectical2.

Another possible side effect of treatment with Vectical is a slight increase in the risk of certain types of skin tumors because Vectical can make your skin more sensitive to natural and artificial light.   People using Vectical should be sure to protect their skin with protective clothing and/or sunscreen to help reduce this risk5.

Vectical is not recommended for treating women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Can Vectical (calcitriol) be used with other treatments?

Because Vectical can cause an increase in the amount of calcium in a person’s body, it should not usually be taken at the same time as other medicines that are known to have similar effects on calcium levels. These include medicines called thiazide diuretics. Patients may be advised to avoid taking calcium supplements or receiving high doses of vitamin D2.

Studies have shown that using Vectical while also being treated with phototherapy can be effective in reducing symptoms. Vectical in combination with betamethasone, a topical corticosteroid medicine, is also effective for many patients. However, some healthcare providers may advise limiting or avoiding treatment with phototherapy while a person is using Vectical. Vectical is sometimes prescribed to be used after a treatment called Clobex spray, which contains clobetasol propionate4.

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