pimecrolimus (Elidel)

What is pimecrolimus, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Pimecrolimus is a chemical that is used to treat atopic dermatitis (eczema). Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition characterized by redness, itching, scaling, and inflammation of the skin. The cause of atopic dermatitis is not known; however, scientists believe that it may be due to activation of the immune system by various environmental or emotional triggers. Scientists do not know exactly how pimecrolimus reduces the manifestations of atopic dermatitis, but pimecrolimus reduces the action of T-cells and mast cells which are part of the immune system and contribute to responses of the immune system. Pimecrolimus prevents the activation of T-cells by blocking the effects of chemicals (cytokines) released by the body that stimulate T-cells. Pimecrolimus also reduces the ability of mast cells to release chemicals that promote inflammation. Pimecrolimus was approved by the FDA in December 2001.

What brand names are available for pimecrolimus?


Is pimecrolimus available as a generic drug?

Do I need a prescription for pimecrolimus?


What are the side effects of pimecrolimus?

The most common side effects of pimecrolimus are:

  • reactions at the site of application,
  • burning,
  • itching, and
  • redness.

Other important side effects include:

Skin cancer and lymphoma have rarely occurred during treatment with pimecrolimus. Therefore, pimecrolimus should not be used for long-term treatment and should only be applied to affected areas.


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What is the dosage for pimecrolimus?

Patients should completely rub in a thin layer of pimecrolimus to the affected areas twice daily. An improvement in symptoms can be seen within 8-15 days, and patients should contact their physician if there is no response after six weeks of use.

Which drugs or supplements interact with pimecrolimus?

Interactions between pimecrolimus and other drugs have not been studied. Since very little pimecrolimus is absorbed from the skin, drug interactions are not expected. However, since some pimecrolimus is absorbed, caution should be exercised when pimecrolimus is used by individuals also taking drugs (for exmaple, ketoconazole [Nizoral, Extina, Xolegel, Kuric], itraconazole [Sporanox], erythromycin, fluconazole [Diflucan], calcium channel blockers [CCBs], cimetidine [Tagamet]) that inhibit the liver enzymes that eliminate pimecrolimus and could increase the levels of pimecrolimus and promote its toxicity.

Is pimecrolimus safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

There are no adequate studies that evaluate the use of pimecrolimus during pregnancy.

Use of pimecrolimus by nursing mothers has not been evaluated, and it is not known if pimecrolimus is excreted in breast milk. Nursing mothers should decide whether to stop nursing or use alternative treatments.

What else should I know about pimecrolimus?

What preparations of pimecrolimus are available?

Cream, 1%

How should I keep pimecrolimus stored?

Pimecrolimus should be stored at room temperature, 15 C - 30 C (59 F - 86 F).


Pimecrolimus (Elidel) is a medication prescribed for the short-term treatment of mild to moderate atopic dermatitis in persons who are 2 years of age or older, and who cannot use or have failed to respond to other therapies. Side effects, drug interactions, dosage, and pregnancy information should be reviewed prior to taking this medication.

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See more info: pimecrolimus on RxList
Medically reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP; Board Certified Emergency Medicine


FDA Prescribing Information