Recent developments in the understanding of atopic dermatitis have opened up new possibilities for future treatments of the inflammatory skin disease.

New and upcoming treatment options may help you if your eczema doesn’t improve with current treatment methods, like topical creams and moisturizers and anti-inflammatory medications.

The following are some of the newly available and under investigation therapies that will likely become the future of atopic dermatitis treatment.

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are a type of medication designed to help block the immune system’s response. Similar to biologics, JAK inhibitors can help reduce inflammation, which can help improve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.

More specifically, they work by blocking cytokines, which act as messengers for the immune system. According to the National Eczema Association, cytokines are part of the cause of eczema, which means JAK inhibitors will likely play a large role in upcoming treatments for atopic dermatitis.

In 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Opzelura (ruxolitinib) cream for the topical treatment of mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. They noted that it’s for the short-term, non-continuous treatment of chronic atopic dermatitis.

In early 2022, the FDA approved two new oral options for JAK inhibitors. One approval was Pfizer’s Cibinqo (abrocitinib) for use in moderate to severe cases of atopic dermatitis in adults 18 and older. The other approval was Abbvie’s Rinvoq (upadacitinib) for use in moderate to severe cases in people with atopic dermatitis ages 12 and older.

In addition, current clinical trials are looking at other JAK inhibitors, including baricitinib. If approved, they’ll give doctors additional options to help treat moderate to severe cases of atopic dermatitis.

Biologics are a type of injected medication made from living cells or organisms. They can help block the immune system’s response, which can lead to decreased inflammation.

The only biologic approved for treatment of atopic dermatitis in people ages 6 and up is dupilumab. Several clinical trials are underway or planned to test the use of dupilumab in younger children as well as other biologics across all age groups.

Dupilumab and other biologics work by stopping interleukins that are partially responsible for atopic dermatitis. The immune system releases interleukins, which bind to certain cells to cause inflammation. BIologics block these receptors, so the interleukins cannot attach to them.

This process helps to prevent inflammation and lessen the severity of the condition.

In a recent stage 2 clinical trial published in 2021, researchers found that children under the age of 6 showed promising tolerance of dupilumab. They also found that the medication effectively helped treat atopic dermatitis in children under the age of 6.

Currently, another stage 3 clinical trial is ongoing for children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years.

In addition, several other stage 2 and 3 clinical trials are underway or planned for other biological medications for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. According to a 2021 review, current biologics under investigation include:

  • ISB 830
  • nemolizumab
  • lebrikizumab
  • tezepelumab
  • tralokinumab

The clinical trials will assess their overall effectiveness in treating atopic dermatitis as well as their general safety and potential side effects in the general population.

Biologics can cause some side effects for some people. The most common side effects reported with dupilumab include:

  • cold sores in or around the mouth
  • injection site infection or reaction, such as redness or swelling
  • pink eye

Phototherapy, or light therapy, isn’t new in the treatment of atopic dermatitis, but researchers are assessing the various types to see which one is the most effective form of treatment.

Currently, researchers are recruiting for a clinical trial that compares broadband vs narrowband UVB light. The researchers hope to determine which of the two types will work better for most people.

Researchers are also looking into the effectiveness of bathing additives for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Similar to phototherapy, bathing in different substances, such as bleach and oatmeal, isn’t new to the world of treating eczema.

Researchers are currently recruiting for a clinical trial to assess the changes to the skin and microorganisms following a bath or gauze soak with dilute bleach and dilute vinegar. The trial intends to evaluate the change in skin barrier function and the microbial composition on the skin following the baths.

Targeted microbiome transplant involves using “good” bacteria to fight potentially harmful bacteria on the skin’s surface. In theory, the “good” bacteria could help destroy infectious bacteria often responsible for skin infections associated with atopic dermatitis.

A team of researchers is conducting a clinical trial to see how well this treatment approach could work.

Earlier research published in 2018 showed favorable results in reducing the infection’s severity as well as the need for additional treatment measures.

Recent understandings of the underlying causes of atopic dermatitis have allowed researchers to find new, effective ways to treat the skin condition. Some of the most promising new methods are JAK inhibitors as well as biologics.

Both these medication classes work by blocking the immune system’s response, and both could play a major role in the treatment of atopic dermatitis in coming years.

Also of note, researchers are continuing to look at modifications to older therapies, such as baths and phototherapy, to determine the best options for treatment.