Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jul 17, 2020.
(pim e KROE li mus)
Excipient information presented when available (limited, particularly for generics); consult specific product labeling.
Elidel: 1% (30 g, 60 g, 100 g) [contains benzyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, propylene glycol]
Generic: 1% (30 g, 60 g, 100 g)
Brand Names: U.S.
- Calcineurin Inhibitor
- Immunosuppressant Agent
- Topical Skin Product
Penetrates inflamed epidermis to inhibit T cell activation by blocking transcription of proinflammatory cytokine genes such as interleukin-2, interferon gamma (Th1-type), interleukin-4, and interleukin-10 (Th2-type). Pimecrolimus binds to the intracellular protein FKBP-12, inhibiting calcineurin, which blocks cytokine transcription and inhibits T-cell activation. Prevents release of inflammatory cytokines and mediators from mast cells in vitro after stimulation by antigen/IgE.
Topical: Low systemic absorption; blood concentration of pimecrolimus was routinely <2 ng/mL with treatment of atopic dermatitis in adult patients (13% to 62% BSA involvement); blood concentration of pimecrolimus was <3 ng/mL in 26 pediatric patients 2 to 14 years of age with atopic dermatitis (20% to 69% BSA involvement). Detectable blood levels were observed in a higher proportion of children as compared to adults and may be due to the larger surface area to body mass ratio seen in pediatric patients (Menter 2009a).
Hepatic via cytochrome (CYP) P450 3A4
Feces (78.4% as metabolites; <1% as unchanged drug)
Onset of Action
Time to significant improvement: 8 days (Wellington 2001)
Time to Peak
Serum: Topical: 2 to 6 hours
Terminal: Oral: 30 to 40 hours
99.5%, primarily to various lipoproteins
Use: Labeled Indications
Atopic dermatitis: Second-line therapy for short-term and noncontinuous long-term treatment of mild to moderate atopic dermatitis in nonimmunocompromised patients 2 years and older who have failed to respond adequately to other topical prescription treatments, or when those treatments are not advisable.
Off Label Uses
Intertriginous and facial psoriasis
Data from a double-blind, randomized, vehicle-controlled study support the use of pimecrolimus in the treatment of inverse psoriasis. In patients with this condition, pimecrolimus was effective, safe, and well-tolerated [Gribetz 2004].
Based on the American Academy of Dermatology guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, pimecrolimus for the treatment of intertriginous and facial psoriasis is effective and recommended in the management of this condition.
Oral lichen planus
Data from short-term controlled trials demonstrate that topical pimecrolimus is effective in improving clinical symptoms of oral lichen planus and may be considered an alternative therapy for patients who do not respond to topical steroids.
Data from a meta-analysis and randomized, controlled trials suggest that pimecrolimus may be effective in the management of vitiligo [Esfandiarpour 2006], [Lee 2019], [Stinco 2009].
European Dermatology Forum consensus guidelines support the use of topical calcineurin inhibitors as first-line therapy for patients with vitiligo; use should be limited to the head and neck regions [Taieb 2013].
Hypersensitivity to pimecrolimus or any component of the formulation
Atopic dermatitis (mild to moderate): Topical: Apply thin layer to affected area twice daily. Note: Limit application to involved areas. Discontinue use when symptoms have resolved; re-evaluate if symptoms persist >6 weeks.
Oral lichen planus (off-label use): Topical: Apply twice daily for 1 month (Passeron 2007; Swift 2005; Volz 2008)
Psoriasis (off-label use): Topical: Apply twice daily (Gribetz 2004; Menter 2009b)
Vitiligo (off-label use): Topical: Apply twice daily for 6 months. Treatment beyond 12 months may be useful; long-term safety has not been established. (Esfandiarpour 2009; Stinco 2009; Taieb 2013)
Refer to adult dosing.
Atopic dermatitis (mild-moderate): Children ≥2 years and Adolescents: Topical: Apply a thin layer to affected area twice daily; limit application to affected areas only; discontinue therapy when symptoms have resolved; re-evaluate patient if symptoms persist >6 weeks.
Topical: Apply a thin layer to affected skin. Limit application to areas of involvement. Do not use with occlusive dressings. Burning at the application site is most common in first few days but improves over time. Discontinue use when symptoms have resolved; re-evaluate if symptoms persist >6 weeks. Moisturizers may be applied after use of pimecrolimus cream. Wash hands before and after use.
Oral lichen planus (off-label use): Apply to affected oral mucosa, cover with a thin layer of gauze to delay dilution with saliva (Volz 2008). Eating, drinking, or chewing gum was not allowed for 30 minutes after application (Passeron 2007).
Store at 25°C (77°F); excursions permitted to 15°C to 30°C (59°F to 86°F); do not freeze.
CYP3A4 Inhibitors (Moderate): May decrease the metabolism of Pimecrolimus. Monitor therapy
CYP3A4 Inhibitors (Strong): May decrease the metabolism of Pimecrolimus. Monitor therapy
Immunosuppressants: Pimecrolimus may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Immunosuppressants. Avoid combination
The following adverse drug reactions and incidences are derived from product labeling unless otherwise specified.
Central nervous system: Headache (children and adolescents 11% to 25%; adults 7%), fever (children and adolescents 13%; adults 1%)
Infection: Influenza (3% to 13%)
Local: Local burning (adults 26%; children and adolescents 2% to 8%; tends to resolve/improve as lesions resolve), application site reaction (adults 15%; children and adolescents 2%)
Respiratory: Nasopharyngitis (infants, children, and adolescents 10% to 27%; adults 8%), upper respiratory tract infection (children and adolescents 14% to 19%; adults 4%), cough (children and adolescents 9% to 16%; adults 2%), bronchitis (children and adolescents ≤11%; adults ≤2%)
1% to 10%:
Dermatologic: Folliculitis (adults 6%; children and adolescents 1%), skin infection (5% to 6%), impetigo (4%), warts (children and adolescents ≤3%), acne vulgaris (≤2%), herpes simplex dermatitis (≤2%), molluscum contagiosum (children and adolescents ≤2%), urticaria (≤1%)
Gastrointestinal: Diarrhea (children and adolescents 1% to 8%; adults ≤2%), gastroenteritis (children and adolescents ≤7%; adults 2%), vomiting (1% to 4%), constipation (children and adolescents ≤4%), abdominal pain (≤3%), toothache (≤3%), nausea (1% to 2%)
Genitourinary: Dysmenorrhea (1% to 2%)
Hypersensitivity: Hypersensitivity (3% to 5%)
Infection: Viral infection (children and adolescents ≤7%), herpes simplex infection (≤4%), bacterial infection (1% to 2%), staphylococcal infection (1% to 2%), varicella (≤1%)
Local: Local irritation (adults ≤6%; children and adolescents ≤1%), local pruritus (1% to 6%), localized erythema (≤2%)
Neuromuscular & skeletal: Arthralgia (≤2%), back pain (≤2%)
Ocular: Conjunctivitis (≤2% to 3%), eye infection (≤1%)
Otic: Otic infection (1% to 6%), otitis media (1% to 3%)
Respiratory: Sore throat (4% to 8%), pharyngitis (children and adolescents 1% to 8%; adults 1%), tonsillitis (children and adolescents ≤6%; adults <1%), asthma (3% to 4%), asthma aggravated (children and adolescents ≤4%), streptococcal pharyngitis (children and adolescents 3%), nasal congestion (1% to 3%), sinusitis (1% to 3%), epistaxis (≤3%), dyspnea (≤2%), flu-like symptoms (≤2%), pneumonia (≤2%), rhinitis (≤2%), rhinorrhea (children and adolescents ≤2%), viral upper respiratory tract infection (≤2%), wheezing (children and adolescents ≤1%)
Miscellaneous: Laceration (children and adolescents ≤2%)
<1%, postmarketing, and/or case reports: Anaphylaxis, angioedema, eczema (herpeticum), eye irritation (following application near eyes), facial edema, flushing (ethanol-associated), lymphadenopathy, malignant neoplasm (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, malignant lymphoma), skin discoloration
ALERT: U.S. Boxed WarningAppropriate use:
Long-term safety of topical calcineurin inhibitors has not been established. Continuous long-term use of topical calcineurin inhibitors, including pimecrolimus, in any age group should be avoided, and application limited to areas of involvement with atopic dermatitis.Malignancy:
Although a causal relationship has not been established, rare cases of malignancy (eg, skin malignancy, lymphoma) have been reported in patients treated with topical calcineurin inhibitors including pimecrolimus.Pediatrics:
Pimecrolimus is not indicated for use in children younger than 2 years.
Concerns related to adverse effects:
• Infection: Patients with atopic dermatitis are predisposed to skin infections; therapy has been associated with an increased risk of developing eczema herpeticum, varicella zoster, and herpes simplex. Do not apply to areas of active bacterial or viral infection; local infections at the treatment site should be resolved prior to therapy.
• Local symptoms: May cause local symptoms (eg, burning, pruritus, soreness, stinging) during first few days of treatment; usually self-resolving as atopic dermatitis lesions heal.
• Lymphadenopathy: May be associated with development of lymphadenopathy; possible infectious causes should be investigated. Discontinue use in patients with unknown cause of lymphadenopathy or acute infectious mononucleosis.
• Malignancy: [US Boxed Warning]: Topical calcineurin inhibitors (including pimecrolimus) have been associated with rare cases of lymphoma and skin malignancy; avoid use on malignant or premalignant skin conditions (eg, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma).
• Skin papilloma: Skin papilloma (warts) have been observed with use; discontinue use if there is worsening of skin papillomas or they do not respond to conventional treatment.
• Atopic dermatitis: Diagnosis should be reconfirmed if sign/symptoms do not improve within 6 weeks of treatment.
• Erythroderma: Safety not established in patients with generalized erythroderma.
• Skin diseases which may increase systemic absorption: Not recommended for use in patients with Netherton's syndrome or skin conditions which may increase the potential for systemic absorption.
• Immunocompromised patients: Should not be used in immunocompromised patients, including patients on concomitant systemic immunosuppressive therapy.
• Pediatric: [US Boxed Warning]: Use of pimecrolimus in children <2 years of age is not recommended, particularly since the effect on immune system development is unknown.
Dosage form specific issues:
• Benzyl alcohol and derivatives: Some dosage forms may contain benzyl alcohol; large amounts of benzyl alcohol (≥99 mg/kg/day) have been associated with a potentially fatal toxicity (“gasping syndrome”) in neonates; the “gasping syndrome” consists of metabolic acidosis, respiratory distress, gasping respirations, CNS dysfunction (including convulsions, intracranial hemorrhage), hypotension, and cardiovascular collapse (AAP ["Inactive" 1997]; CDC, 1982); some data suggests that benzoate displaces bilirubin from protein binding sites (Ahlfors, 2001); avoid or use dosage forms containing benzyl alcohol with caution in neonates. See manufacturer’s labeling.
• Appropriate use: [US Boxed Warning]: Continuous long-term use of calcineurin inhibitors (including pimecrolimus) should be avoided and application of cream should be limited to areas of involvement with atopic dermatitis. Safety of intermittent use for >1 year has not been established.
• Sun exposure: Avoid artificial or natural sunlight exposure, even when pimecrolimus is not on the skin.
Pregnancy Risk Factor
Adverse events were not observed in animal reproduction studies following topical application.
What is this drug used for?
• It is used to treat eczema.
• It may be given to you for other reasons. Talk with the doctor.
All drugs may cause side effects. However, many people have no side effects or only have minor side effects. Call your doctor or get medical help if any of these side effects or any other side effects bother you or do not go away:
• Skin irritation
• Itching or soreness
• Common cold symptoms
• Flu-like symptoms
• Sensation of warmth
• Stuffy nose
• Sore throat
WARNING/CAUTION: Even though it may be rare, some people may have very bad and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of the following signs or symptoms that may be related to a very bad side effect:
• Skin infection
• Swollen glands
• Night sweats
• Excessive weight loss
• Cold sores
• Skin ulcers
• Skin growths
• Mole changes
• Signs of an allergic reaction, like rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Note: This is not a comprehensive list of all side effects. Talk to your doctor if you have questions.
Consumer Information Use and Disclaimer: This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this medicine or any other medicine. Only the healthcare provider has the knowledge and training to decide which medicines are right for a specific patient. This information does not endorse any medicine as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a limited summary of general information about the medicine's uses from the patient education leaflet and is not intended to be comprehensive. This limited summary does NOT include all information available about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this medicine. This information is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and does not replace information you receive from the healthcare provider. For a more detailed summary of information about the risks and benefits of using this medicine, please speak with your healthcare provider and review the entire patient education leaflet.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
More about pimecrolimus topical
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- Drug class: miscellaneous topical agents
Other brands: Elidel