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Papers of the Week

Papers: 6 Jun 2020 - 12 Jun 2020

Pharmacology/Drug Development


2020 Jun 03

Eur J Pharmacol

Small molecule drugs for the treatment of pruritus in patients with atopic dermatitis.


Soeberdt M, Kilic A, Abels C
Eur J Pharmacol. 2020 Jun 03:173242.
PMID: 32504692.


Chronic pruritus is a cardinal symptom of the inflammatory skin disease atopic dermatitis (AD). Pathogenic mechanisms in the periphery, spinal cord and the brain have been implicated in AD-related pruritus. Therefore, both systemic and topical administration of drugs could potentially provide relief. Despite efforts to elucidate the mechanisms behind AD-related pruritus and the relative contribution of peripheral nervous system and central nervous system (CNS), specific and successful treatment options have not yet been developed. Several small molecule drugs are currently being investigated to treat AD and AD-related pruritus. These small molecule drugs can be applied systemically but also topically, as they are able to penetrate into the skin due to their small size. Small molecule drugs specifically targeting peripheral itch transmission, e.g. peripherally selective κ-opioid receptors agonists and neurokinin 1 receptors antagonists, have so far been unable to improve AD-related pruritus when applied systemically, possibly because of the lack of CNS activity. Current evidence from clinical and preclinical trials with centrally acting or peripherally selective oral κ-opioid receptors agonists implies that CNS activity is required for an antipruritic effect. CNS activity is, however, directly associated with CNS-mediated side-effects. On the other hand, topical application of small molecules with anti-inflammatory activity such as Janus kinase inhibitors and phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitors, and also of κ-opioid receptor agonists, has shown promising results regarding their ability to reduce AD-related pruritus. In conclusion, topical application of anti-inflammatory compounds appears to be a highly promising strategy for the treatment of AD-related pruritus.