Generic name: anthralin [ AN-thra-lin ]
Drug class: Topical antipsoriatics
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 26, 2023.
Uses for anthralin
Anthralin is used to treat psoriasis. It may also be used to treat other skin conditions as determined by your doctor.
In the U.S., this medicine is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Before using anthralin
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For this medicine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Studies on this medicine have been done only in adult patients, and there is no specific information comparing use of anthralin in children with use in other age groups.
Many medicines have not been studied specifically in older people. Therefore, it may not be known whether they work exactly the same way they do in younger adults or if they cause different side effects or problems in older people. There is no specific information comparing use of anthralin in the elderly with use in other age groups.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Interactions with Medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. Tell your healthcare professional if you are taking any other prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicine.
Interactions with Food/Tobacco/Alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other Medical Problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of this medicine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Skin diseases or problems (other)—Anthralin may make the condition worse
Proper use of anthralin
Keep this medicine away from the eyes and mucous membranes, such as the mouth and the inside of the nose.
Do not apply this medicine to blistered, raw, or oozing areas of the skin or scalp.
Do not use this medicine on your face or sex organs or in the folds and creases of your skin. If you have any questions about this, check with your doctor.
Use this medicine only as directed. Do not use more of it, do not use it more often, and do not use it for a longer time than your doctor ordered. To do so may increase the chance of side effects.
Anthralin may be used in different ways. In some cases, it is applied at night and allowed to remain on the affected areas overnight, then washed off the next morning or before the next application. In other cases, it may be applied and allowed to remain on the affected areas for a short period of time (usually 10 to 30 minutes), then washed off. (This is called short contact treatment.) Make sure you understand exactly how you are to use this medicine. If you have any questions about this, check with your doctor.
Anthralin may cause irritation of normal skin. If it does, petrolatum may be applied to the skin or scalp around the affected areas for protection.
Apply a thin layer of anthralin to only the affected area of the skin or scalp and rub in gently and well.
Immediately after applying this medicine, wash your hands to remove any medicine that may be on them.
For patients using anthralin for short contact (usually 10 to 30 minutes) treatment:
- After applying anthralin, allow the medicine to remain on the affected area for 10 to 30 minutes or as directed by your doctor. Then remove the medicine by bathing, if the anthralin was applied to the skin, or by shampooing, if it was applied to the scalp.
For patients using the cream form of anthralin for overnight treatment:
- If anthralin cream is applied to the skin, any medicine remaining on the affected areas the next morning should be removed by bathing.
- If anthralin cream is applied to the scalp, shampoo to remove the scales and any medicine remaining on the affected areas from the previous application. Dry the hair and, after parting, rub the cream into the affected areas. Check with your doctor to see when the cream should be removed.
For patients using the ointment form of anthralin for overnight treatment:
- If anthralin ointment is applied to the skin at night, any ointment remaining on the affected areas the next morning should be removed with warm liquid petrolatum followed by bathing.
- If anthralin ointment is applied to the scalp at night, shampoo the next morning to clean the scalp.
The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For psoriasis:
- For cream dosage form:
- Adults—Apply to the dry, affected area(s) of the skin once a day, preferably at night, or as directed by your doctor. Wash medicine off skin at the proper time.
- Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
- For ointment dosage form:
- Adults—Apply to the dry, affected area(s) of the skin once a day or as directed by your doctor. Wash medicine off skin at the proper time.
- Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
- For cream dosage form:
If you miss a dose of this medicine, apply it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Precautions while using anthralin
Anthralin may stain the skin, hair, fingernails, clothing, bed linens, or bathtub or shower. The stain on the skin or hair will wear off in several weeks after you stop using this medicine. Some ways to prevent or lessen anthralin staining include:
- Wear plastic gloves when you apply this medicine.
- Avoid getting the medicine on your clothing or on bed linens. Ask your doctor if you can wear a plastic cap while sleeping if you apply your medicine to your scalp at bedtime.
- Remove any medicine on the surface of the bathtub or shower stall by immediately rinsing it with hot water after bathing or showering. Afterwards wash the bathtub or shower stall with a household cleanser to remove any remaining deposits.
Side Effects of anthralin
Anthralin has been shown to cause tumors in animals. However, there have been no reports of anthralin causing tumors in humans.
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
- Redness or other skin irritation of treated or uninvolved skin not present before use of this medicine
- Skin rash
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
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