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Systemic absorption of topical corticosteroids can produce reversible hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis suppression with the potential for glucocorticosteroid insufficiency after withdrawal of treatment. Manifestations of Cushing's syndrome, hyperglycemia, and glucosuria can also be produced in some patients by systemic absorption of topical corticosteroids while on treatment.
Patients applying a topical steroid to a large surface area or to areas under occlusion should be evaluated periodically for evidence of HPA axis suppression. This may be done by using the ACTH stimulation, A.M. plasma cortisol, and urinary free cortisol tests.
WESTCORT Ointment (hydrocortisone valerate ointment) has produced mild, reversible adrenal suppression in adult patients when used under occlusion for 5 days, 15 grams twice a day over 25 to 60% body surface area or when used three times a day over 20 to 30% body surface area to treat_psoriasis for 3-4 weeks.
If HPA axis suppression is noted, an attempt should be made to withdraw the drug, to reduce the frequency of application, or to substitute a less potent corticosteroid. Recovery of HPA axis function is generally prompt upon discontinuation of topical corticosteroids. Infrequently, signs and symptoms of glucocorticosteroid insufficiency may occur, requiring supplemental systemic corticosteroids. For information on systemic supplementation, see prescribing information for these products.
Pediatric patients may be more susceptible to systemic toxicity from equivalent doses due to their larger skin surface to body mass ratios. (See PRECAUTIONS Pediatric Use)
If irritation develops, WESTCORT Ointment (hydrocortisone valerate ointment) should be discontinued and appropriate therapy instituted. Allergic contact dermatitis with corticosteroids is usually diagnosed by observing a failure to heal rather than noting a clinical exacerbation, as with most topical products not containing corticosteroids. Such an observation should be corroborated with appropriate diagnostic patch testing.
If concomitant skin infections are present or develop, an appropriate antifungal or antibacterial agent should be used. If a favorable response does not occur promptly, use of WESTCORT Ointment (hydrocortisone valerate ointment) should be discontinued until the infection has been adequately controlled.
The following tests may be helpful in evaluating patients for HPA axis suppression:
ACTH stimulation test
A.M. plasma cortisol test
Urinary free cortisol test
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, and Impairment of Fertility
Long-term animal studies have not been performed to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of hydrocortisone valerate. WESTCORT Ointment (hydrocortisone valerate ointment) was shown to be non-mutagenic in the Ames-Salmonella/Microsome Plate Test. There are no studies which assess the effects of hydrocortisone valerate on fertility and general reproductive performance.
Teratogenic Effects, Pregnancy Category C
Corticosteroids have been shown to be teratogenic in laboratory animals when administered systemically at relatively low dosage levels. Some corticosteroids have been shown to be teratogenic after dermal application in laboratory animals.
Dermal embryofetal developmental studies were conducted in rabbits and rats with hydrocortisone valerate cream, 0.2%. Hydrocortisone valerate cream, 0.2%, was administered topically for 4 hours/day, rather than the preferred 24 hours/day, during the period of organogenesis in rats (gestational days 5-16) and rabbits (gestational days 6-19). Topical doses of hydrocortisone valerate up to 9 mg/kg/day (54 mg/m /day) were administered to rats and 5 mg/kg/day (60 mg/m2/day) were administered to rabbits. In the absence of maternal toxicity, a significant increase in delayed skeletal ossification in fetuses was noted at 9 mg/kg/day [2.5X the Maximum Recommended Human Dose (MRHD) based on body surface area (BSA) comparisons] in the rat study. No malformations in the fetuses were noted at 9 mg/kg/day (2.5X MRHD based on BSA comparisons) in the rat study. Indicators of embryofetal toxicity, significant decrease in fetal weight at 2 mg/kg/day (1X MRHD based on BSA) and a significant increase in post-implantation loss and embryo resorption at 5 mg/kg (3X MRHD based on BSA), were noted in the rabbit study. A significant increase in delayed skeletal ossification in fetuses was noted at 5 mg/kg/day (3X the MRHD based on BSA comparisons) in the rabbit study. Increased numbers of fetal malformations (e.g., cleft palate, omphalocele and clubbed feet) were noted at 5 mg/kg/day (3X MRHD based on BSA comparisons) in the rabbit study.
There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. WESTCORT Ointment (hydrocortisone valerate ointment) should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Systemically administered corticosteroids appear in human milk and could suppress growth, interfere with endogenous corticosteroid production, or cause other untoward effects. It is not known whether topical administration of corticosteroids could result in sufficient systemic absorption to produce detectable quantities in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, caution should be exercised when WESTCORT Ointment (hydrocortisone valerate ointment) is administered to a nursing woman.
Safety of this product in pediatric patients has not been established. There is no data on adrenal suppression and/or growth suppression.
Because of a higher ratio of skin surface area to body mass, pediatric patients are at a greater risk than adults of HPA axis suppression and Cushing's syndrome when they are treated with topical corticosteroids. They are therefore also at a greater risk of adrenal insufficiency during and/or after withdrawal of treatment. Adverse effects including striae have been reported with inappropriate use of topical corticosteroids in infants and children. (See PRECAUTIONS)
HPA axis suppression, Cushing's syndrome, linear growth retardation, delayed weight gain, and intracranial hypertension have been reported in children receiving topical corticosteroids. Manifestations of adrenal suppression in children include low plasma cortisol levels, and an absence of response to ACTH stimulation. Manifestations of intracranial hypertension include bulging fontanelles, headaches, and bilateral papilledema.
Clinical studies of Westcort Ointment (hydrocortisone valerate ointment) , 0.2% did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients.
Last reviewed on RxList: 1/13/2009
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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