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The effects of topical doxepin on responses to histamine, substance P and prostaglandin E2 in human skin.

Author(s): Sabroe RA, Kennedy CT, Archer CB

Affiliation(s): University of Bristol, Department of Dermatology, Bristol Royal Infirmary, U.K.

Publication date & source: 1997-09, Br J Dermatol., 137(3):386-90.

Publication type: Clinical Trial; Randomized Controlled Trial

The tricyclic antidepressant, doxepin, is known to have H1 and H2 antihistaminic effects. Recently, 5% doxepin cream has been marketed in the U.S.A. for treatment of eczematous dermatoses. We investigated the effects of topical doxepin treatment on histamine-, substance P- and prostaglandin E2- (PGE2) induced responses in the skin of normal and atopic subjects. We compared the effects of topical doxepin with those of the oral antihistamine terfenadine. The weal volume and flare area responses to histamine were significantly reduced by treatment with topical doxepin or oral terfenadine in both normal and atopic subjects (P < 0.05). The mean +/- SEM percentage reduction in flare area for 10 micrograms/site of histamine in non-atopics and atopics was 48 +/- 8% and 60 +/- 17% with terfenadine, and 54 +/- 12% and 81 +/- 4% with topical doxepin, respectively. The mean percentage reduction in weal volume for the same dose of histamine in non-atopics and atopics was 70 +/- 9% and 63 +/- 16% with terfenadine, and 96 +/- 2% and 89 +/- 6% with topical doxepin, respectively. The flare but not the weal response to substance P was inhibited by both treatments in all subjects (P < 0.05). The mean +/- SEM percentage reduction in flare area for 200 pmol/site of substance P in non-atopics and atopics was 53 +/- 10% and 73 +/- 4% with terfenadine, and 74 +/- 7% and 75 +/- 4% with topical doxepin, respectively. The cutaneous responses to PGE2 were not affected by either drug. The inhibitory effects of doxepin were as great as those of terfenadine, and doxepin had a significantly greater effect than terfenadine in inhibiting the weal response to histamine and flare response to substance P in normal volunteers (P < 0.05). There was no significant difference between atopics and non-atopics in the percentage reduction of cutaneous responses by oral terfenadine or topical doxepin. Marked sedation occurred in three of the first 10 subjects treated with topical doxepin, necessitating a reduction in dosage for the remaining six subjects. In summary, topical doxepin was as effective as, and sometimes more effective than, a standard dose of oral terfenadine in the inhibition of histamine-induced and axon-reflex-mediated cutaneous responses. The marked sedative effect may limit its clinical use in some patients.

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