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Drug Profile

The information on this site is intended to supplement and enhance, not replace, the advice of a physician who is familiar with your medical history. Decisions about your health should always be made ONLY after detailed conversation with your doctor.

Generic drug name: betamethasone (bay ta METH a sone)
Brand name(s): BETA-VAL, DERMABET, DIPROLENE, LUXIQ, SERNIVO, VALNAC
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Generic drug name: desoximetasone (des ox i MET a sone)
Brand name(s): TOPICORT
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
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Generic drug name: fluocinolone (floo oh SIN oh lone)
Brand name(s): CAPEX, DERMA-SMOOTHE/FS, SYNALAR
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
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Generic drug name: fluocinonide (floo oh SIN oh nide)
Brand name(s): LIDEX, LIDEX-E, VANOS
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
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Generic drug name: hydrocortisone [topical] (hye dro KOR ti sone)
Brand name(s): ALA-CORT, ALA-SCALP, ANUSOL HC, CORTAID, CORTIZONE 10, HI-COR, HYTONE, LOCOID, NEACLEAR LIQUID OXYGEN SCAR ADVANTAGE, PANDEL, PENECORT, STIE-CORT, SYNACORT, TEXACORT
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
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Generic drug name: triamcinolone [topical] (trye am SIN oh lone)
Brand name(s): KENALOG, TRIDERM
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
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Limited Use [what does this mean?]
Generic drug name: clobetasol propionate (kloe BAY ta sol)
Brand name(s): CLOBEX, CORMAX, EMBELINE, EMBELINE E, IMPEKLO, IMPOYZ, OLUX, OLUX E
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Pregnancy and Breast-feeding Warnings [top]

Pregnancy Warning

Corticosteroids, when applied to the skin of pregnant animals, are capable of causing harm including stillbirths, cleft palate, and skeletal abnormalities at very low drug exposures. Because of the potential for serious adverse effects to the fetus, these drugs, particularly those with high potency, should not be used by pregnant women.

Breast-feeding Warning

No data are available on secretion of topically administered corticosteroids into breast milk; however, corticosteroids that are given by mouth or injection are secreted into breast milk. To avoid potential risks, women taking topic corticosteroids, particularly those with high potency, should talk to their doctor about whether to discontinue the drug or discontinue nursing.

Facts About This Drug [top]

Topical glucocorticoids (also called corticosteroids) are applied to the skin and are commonly used to reduce inflammation (redness and swelling) and relieve itching caused by many kinds of skin conditions (for example, eczema, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis).

Topical glucocorticoids are classified into seven groups based on their potency (see Table below).[1] The potency is determined by the chemical makeup of the active ingredient, the strength and the formulation. Glucocorticoids...

Topical glucocorticoids (also called corticosteroids) are applied to the skin and are commonly used to reduce inflammation (redness and swelling) and relieve itching caused by many kinds of skin conditions (for example, eczema, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis).

Topical glucocorticoids are classified into seven groups based on their potency (see Table below).[1] The potency is determined by the chemical makeup of the active ingredient, the strength and the formulation. Glucocorticoids that contain fluorine are more potent than those that do not contain fluorine.

 

Seven Classes of Topical Corticosteroids and Examples of Each

Potency Group

Active ingredient, formulation(s), strength(s)

Brand Name(s)

Super-high potency (group 1)

betamethasone dipropionate, augmented; gel, lotion and optimized ointment; 0.05 percent

DIPROLENE

clobetasol propionate, multiple formulations, 0.05 percent

CLOBEX, CORMAX, EMBELINE, OLUX

fluocinonide, cream, 0.1 percent

VANOS

halobetasol propionate; cream, lotion and ointment; 0.05 percent

ULTRAVATE

High potency (group 2)

amcinonide, ointment, 0.1 percent

generic only

betamethasone dipropionate, cream (augmented formulation), 0.05 percent

DIPROLENE AF

 

clobetasol propionate, cream, 0.025 percent

IMPOYZ

fluocinonide; cream, gel, ointment and solution; 0.05 percent

LIDEX

High potency (group 3)

amcinonide, cream and lotion, 0.1 percent

generic only

fluticasone propionate, ointment, 0.005 percent

CUTIVATE

mometasone furoate, ointment, 0.1 percent

ELOCON

triamcinolone acetonide, cream, 0.5 percent

TRIDERM

Medium potency (group 4)

betamethasone dipropionate, spray, 0.05 percent

SERNIVO

flurandrenolide, ointment, 0.05 percent

CORDRAN

hydrocortisone valerate, ointment, 0.2 percent

generic only

mometasone furoate, cream and lotion, 0.1 percent

ELOCON

Lower-mid potency (group 5)

betamethasone valerate, cream, 0.1 percent

BETA-VAL, DERMABET, VALNAC

desonide, gel and ointment, 0.05 percent

DESONATE, DESOWEN

flurandrenolide, cream and lotion, 0.05 percent

CORDRAN, CORDRAN SP

hydrocortisone valerate, cream, 0.2 percent

generic only

Low potency (group 6)

alclometasone dipropionate, cream and ointment, 0.05 percent

generic only

betamethasone valerate, lotion, 0.1 percent

generic only

desonide; cream, foam and lotion; 0.05 percent

DESOWEN, VERDESO

triamcinolone acetonide, cream and lotion, 0.025 percent

TRIDERM

Least potency (group 7)

hydrocortisone; cream, foam, lotion, ointment and solution; 0.5, 1, 2 and 2.5 percent

ALA-CORT, ALA-SCALP, ANUSOL HC, CORTAID,* CORTIZONE 10,* STIE-CORT, TEXACOR

*Available over-the-counter

However, the fluorinated preparations are more likely to cause adverse effects such as skin thinning (particularly on the face, armpits and groin), loss of pigment and acne. In general, one should use the least potent preparation that is effective. Fluorinated glucocorticoids, in particular, should not be used for prolonged periods on the face or around the eye. The highest-potency glucocorticoids should not be applied to the face, underarms or groin areas. Higher-strength glucocorticoids also should be spread in a very thin layer, covering only the area requiring treatment. For most conditions, applying the medication once daily will suffice. If the area that you are treating becomes irritated, stop using the drug and call your doctor. More potent versions should be avoided in children whenever possible.

Super-high-potency glucocorticoids, such as clobetasol, generally are reserved for treating severe cases of skin diseases, such as severe psoriasis, atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema) and contact dermatitis (for example, poison ivy), that have not responded to corticosteroids with lower potency. Therefore, we have designated clobetasol as Limited Use.

Adverse effects beyond the skin (caused by absorption into the blood system) are related to the amount and strength of the drug used and can pose a problem when large areas of skin, especially in children, are treated. In principle, any adverse effect that can be caused by an oral glucocorticoid could also result from topical use. For example, use of high- and super-high-potency topical glucocorticoids can reversibly suppress the production of natural glucocorticoid hormones, such as cortisol, by the adrenal glands. As a result, patients may experience signs and symptoms of adrenal insufficiency during or shortly after treatment.[2] However, such effects are rare if these preparations are used correctly.

For a given formulation, ointments are likely to be more effective than creams or lotions. However, some people find ointments too greasy, especially for hairy areas. In this case, a cream, lotion or gel may be a better option.

Sometimes doctors use occlusive techniques (for example, gloves, plastic film) to cover the topical glucocorticoid. Although this increases effectiveness, it also leads to more absorption into the body and potentially to more adverse effects. These techniques should be used only with a physician’s order.

Hydrocortisone (CORTAID) can now be purchased without a prescription in two strengths: 0.25% and 0.50%. However, the lowest concentration of this drug that is generally considered effective is 0.50%.

Some manufacturers combine topical glucocorticoids with topical antifungals (for example, betamethasone and clotrimazole [LOTRISONE CREAM]).

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved revisions to the product labeling for betamethasone to show that use of topical corticosteroids may increase the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and other eye disorders.[3]

Before You Use This Drug [top]

Tell your doctor if you have or have had:

  • allergies to glucocorticoids
  • infection at treatment site
  • pregnancy or are breast-feeding
  • skin disorder

Tell your doctor about any other drugs you take, including aspirin, herbs, vitamins, and other nonprescription products.

When You Use This Drug [top]

  • Check with your doctor if symptoms do not improve within one week or get worse.
  • You may experience stinging when this drug is applied. You do not need to call your doctor if this happens.

How to Use This Drug [top]

  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember, but skip it if it is almost time for the next dose. Do not take double doses.
  • Do not share your medication with others.
  • Take the drug at the same time(s) each day.
  • Store at room temperature with lid on tightly. Do not store in the bathroom. Do not expose to heat, moisture, or strong light. Keep out of reach of children.
  • Keep drug away from eyes.
  • Do not bandage or otherwise wrap the treated skin area without your doctor’s permission.
  • For foams: Do not smoke while using; do not use near an open flame.
  • For aerosols:
    • Do not smoke while using; do not use near an open flame.
    • Do not breathe spray vapors.
    • Do not get spray in eyes

Interactions with Other Drugs [top]

In general, any interaction that might occur with an oral glucocorticoid is theoretically possible with a topical formulation. However, the frequency and severity of such interactions are likely to be reduced and can be reduced further by the measures mentioned in this section. See section on oral glucocorticoids for a list of interactions reported for these drugs.

Adverse Effects [top]

Call your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • acne or oily skin
  • appetite loss
  • backache
  • blood-containing blisters
  • blood pressure increase
  • bruising that is unusual
  • depression
  • eye pain
  • face rounder
  • finger numbness
  • hair follicles are painful, itchy, red, and have pus-containing blisters
  • hair growth increased
  • hair loss
  • heartbeat irregular
  • irritability
  • lines on the skin of the arms, face, legs, trunk, or groin that are reddish or purplish
  • menstrual irregularities
  • muscle cramps or pain
  • muscle weakness
  • nausea
  • sexual desire or ability decreased in men
  • skin burning and itching and/or pinsized red blisters
  • skin color changes
  • skin infection
  • skin irritation around mouth
  • skin sensitivity increased
  • skin thinning and bruising
  • skin with raised, dark red, wartlike spots
  • stomach bloating, burning, cramping, or pain
  • swelling of feet or lower legs
  • tiredness or weakness that is unusual
  • vision blurring or loss
  • vomiting
  • weakness of arms and legs
  • weight gain that is rapid
  • weight loss

With long-term use of more potent formulations or if substantial absorption occurs:

  • cataracts
  • diabetes
  • glaucoma
  • tuberculosis

Call your doctor if these symptoms continue:

  • burning, dry, irritated, itching, or red skin (mild; transient)
  • skin lesions with increased redness or scaling (mild; temporary)
  • skin rash (minor; transient)

Signs of overdose:

  • backache
  • depression
  • face rounder
  • irritability
  • menstrual irregularities
  • sexual desire or ability in men decreased
  • tiredness or weakness that is unusual

If you suspect an overdose, call this number to contact your poison control center: (800) 222-1222.

Periodic Tests[top]

Ask your doctor which of these tests should be done periodically while you are taking this drug:

  • adrenal function tests

 

last reviewed May 31, 2022