BACKGROUND: Erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL) is a serious immunological complication of leprosy, causing inflammation of skin, nerves, other organs, and general malaise. Many different therapies exist for ENL, but it is unclear if they work or which therapy is optimal. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of interventions for erythema nodosum leprosum. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Skin Group Specialised Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in The Cochrane Library (Issue 1, 2009), MEDLINE (from 2003), EMBASE (from 2005), LILACS and AMED (from inception), CINAHL (from 1981), and databases of ongoing trials, all in March 2009. We checked reference lists of articles and contacted the American Leprosy Missions in Brazil to locate studies. SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of interventions for ENL in people with leprosy. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors performed study selection, assessed trial quality, and extracted data. MAIN RESULTS: We included 13 studies with a total of 445 participants. The quality of the trials was generally poor and no results could be pooled due to the treatments being so heterogeneous. Treatment with thalidomide showed a significant remission of skin lesions compared to acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) (RR 2.43; 95% CI 1.28 to 4.59) (1 trial, 92 participants). Clofazimine treatment was superior to prednisolone (more treatment successes; RR 3.67; 95% CI 1.36 to 9.91) (1 trial, 24 participants), and thalidomide (fewer recurrences; RR 0.08; 95% CI 0.01 to 0.56) (1 trial, 72 participants). We did not find any significant benefit for intravenous betamethasone compared to dextrose (1 trial, 10 participants), pentoxifylline compared to thalidomide (1 trial, 44 participants), indomethacin compared to prednisolone, aspirin or chloroquine treatments (2 trials, 80 participants), or levamisole compared to placebo (1 trial, 12 participants). Mild to moderate adverse events were significantly lower in participants taking 100 mg thalidomide compared to 300 mg thalidomide daily (RR 0.46; 95% CI 0.23 to 0.93). Significantly more minor adverse events were reported in participants taking clofazimine compared with prednisolone (RR 1.92; 95% CI 1.10 to 3.35). None of the studies assessed quality of life or economic outcomes. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There is some evidence of benefit for thalidomide and clofazimine, but generally we did not find clear evidence of benefit for interventions in the management of ENL. However, this does not mean they do not work, because the studies were small and poorly reported. Larger studies using clearly defined participants, outcome measures, and internationally recognised scales are urgently required.

, , , , , , , , , ,
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van Veen, N., Lockwood, D. N., van Brakel, W., Ramirez, J., Jr., & Richardus, J. H. (2008). Interventions for erythema nodosum leprosum.. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Retrieved from