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Author: Hon A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2001. Updated in December 2018.
Calcipotriol is a vitamin-D derivative, about 1% as powerful as the natural hormone calcitriol (also known as 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferol).
Known as calcipotriene (Dovonex®) in the United States, calcipotriol is available as an ointment, cream and scalp solution at a concentration of 50µg/g. In New Zealand, it is called Daivonex®, and, from 1 July 2016, only the ointment is marketed. Calcipotriol is not available in tablet or injection form.
Calcipotriol is also available in combination with betamethasone propionate as a gel or ointment (Daivobet®) and foam (Enstilar®).
Calcipotriol is a prescription medication used mainly for psoriasis. It is moderately or very effective for about 80% of patients. This means the patches become less scaly and thick, but red patches often persist despite continued treatment.
It should be applied to the affected patches of psoriasis twice daily and can be used safely long term. The ointment is used on trunk and limbs. The cream is more often used in the body folds or on the face and ears. The scalp solution is used in hairy areas.
Plaques of severe psoriasis before and after six weeks use of calcipotriol ointment
Calcipotriol is sometimes also helpful in the following skin conditions:
Calcipotriol acts like vitamin D. It is antiproliferative, reducing the abnormal proliferation of keratinocytes that occurs in psoriasis, and it induces cell differentiation, normalising epidermal growth.
Topical calcipotriol is usually well tolerated. Side effects are more common with the ointment formulation than with the cream (but the ointment is more effective on plaque psoriasis).
Keep calcipotriol away from your dog: it is very poisonous and may be fatal if eaten by a dog.
Calcipotriol is often used with other treatments for psoriasis with good effect.
Calcipotriol may reduce the skin thinning effect of topical steroids.
Salicylic acid is used to remove scale but as it deactivates calcipotriol, it should not be applied at the same time. If combined use is required, apply them at a different time of day.
No special precautions are necessary with the combination of calcipotriol with methotrexate.
If you are not based in New Zealand, we suggest you refer to your national drug approval agency for further information about medicines (eg, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration and the US Food and Drug Administration) or a national or state-approved formulary (eg, the New Zealand Formulary and New Zealand Formulary for Children and the British National Formulary and British National Formulary for Children).
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