Elidel is a brand-name prescription medication. It’s FDA-approved to treat mild to moderate atopic dermatitis (eczema) in certain adults as well as some children ages 2 years and older.

You should not use Elidel long term (more than 1 year).*

* Elidel has a boxed warning about risks with long-term use. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the FDA. The warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Drug details

Elidel contains the active drug pimecrolimus. It belongs to a class of drugs called calcineurin inhibitors.

Elidel is a topical cream that comes in one strength: 1%. You’ll usually apply Elidel to affected areas of your skin twice daily.

Effectiveness

For information about the effectiveness of Elidel, see the “Elidel uses” section below.

Elidel is a brand-name drug that contains the active drug pimecrolimus. This active drug is also available as a generic medication. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication.

The generic is considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. Generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.

If you’re interested in using the generic form of Elidel, talk with your doctor. They can tell you if it comes in forms and strengths suitable for your condition.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Elidel.

Is Elidel used for hyperpigmentation, acne, or vitiligo?

Elidel is not approved to treat hyperpigmentation, acne, or vitiligo. But the drug may be used off-label to treat vitiligo in some people. This is according to recommendations by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Off-label use is when a drug is used for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.

Elidel has not been recommended for the treatment of hyperpigmentation or acne. Hyperpigmentation (general skin discoloration) and acne have been reported as side effects of Elidel.

If you have questions about off-label use of Elidel, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Does Elidel treat periorbital dermatitis or seborrheic dermatitis?

Elidel is not approved to treat skin conditions called perioral dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff). But the drug may be used off-label to treat these conditions. Off-label use is when a medication is used to treat a condition that it isn’t approved to treat.

A small study found pimecrolimus (the active drug in Elidel) may help treat perioral dermatitis in some people. Perioral dermatitis is a skin condition that causes a rash around the mouth.

Also, a review of studies found that pimecrolimus may be an effective treatment for seborrheic dermatitis in some people.

If you have questions about off-label uses of Elidel, talk with your doctor.

Are there reviews available from people who’ve used Elidel?

Before trying something new, it’s common to search for written reviews about the experiences of others. You may be able to find testimonials online from people who use Elidel.

But reviews and complaints about medications, including Elidel, may not be as reliable as consumer reviews for other types of products. This is because every person’s body responds differently to medications. You can’t reliably predict how your body will react to a medication based on someone else’s experience.

To help you decide whether Elidel is a good treatment option for you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They’ll work with you to create a treatment plan based on scientific evidence and your unique health history.

Does Elidel come over the counter?

No, Elidel is not available as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug. It’s available only from a pharmacy with a prescription from your doctor.

If you’re interested in learning about OTC treatments for your eczema, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

You can also find information about alternatives to Elidel in the “Alternatives for Elidel” section below.

Where can I find before and after pictures from Elidel treatment?

Your doctor may be able to show you pictures of people before and after their eczema was treated with certain medications. If you’d like to learn what to expect from your Elidel treatment, talk with your doctor.

Can I apply Elidel to my face? If so, can I use other face creams with Elidel?

Yes, you can apply Elidel to your face. And you may be able to use a moisturizer in combination with the drug.

When you apply Elidel to your face (or the rest of your body), put the medication only on areas of skin that have eczema. You should avoid getting Elidel cream in your eyes, mouth, and nose.

If you’d like to use another face cream during your Elidel treatment, be sure to talk with your doctor first. They can advise you on which products are safe to use with Elidel cream. If your doctor recommends a moisturizer, you should apply it after using Elidel.

It’s also important to avoid exposing areas treated with Elidel to sunlight or artificial sunlight (such as a tanning bed). Talk with your doctor about sunscreen to protect your skin while you’re using Elidel cream.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as Elidel to treat certain conditions. Elidel may also be used off-label for other conditions. Off-label drug use means using a drug for a purpose other than what it’s been approved for by the FDA.

Elidel for eczema

Elidel is FDA-approved to treat mild to moderate atopic dermatitis (eczema) in certain adults and some children ages 2 years and older.

Elidel is meant to be used as a second-line treatment for eczema. This means your doctor would prescribe it only after you’ve tried other treatments or you’re unable to use other treatments for eczema.

You should not use Elidel long term (more than 1 year). Elidel has a boxed warning about risks with long-term use.* A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the FDA. The warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

* For more information on this boxed warning, see “Side effect details” in the “Elidel side effects” section below.

Eczema explained

Eczema is a type of skin condition. It occurs when your immune system becomes overactive and does not work as usual.

Eczema can cause inflammation (swelling and damage) of the skin that allows moisture to escape. This can cause your skin to become dry. It can also cause a rash that appears red, brown, purple, or gray.

Itching is the most common symptom in people with eczema. Other common symptoms of eczema can include skin that’s discolored, painful or sore.

Damage to the skin may also increase your risk of infection. Because the skin is dry, it’s more prone to cuts or wounds.

Eczema usually begins in early childhood but can happen at any time. It’s a long-term condition that may improve at certain times but can worsen at other times (flares or flare-up).

Effectiveness for eczema

Clinical studies have shown Elidel to be effective for treating eczema in people who:

  • tried other treatments for eczema that didn’t work
  • were unable to use other treatments

Elidel is meant to be used as a second-line treatment for eczema. This means your doctor would prescribe it only after you’ve tried other treatments or you’re unable to use other treatments for eczema.

To learn more about dermatology and skin care, including eczema, you can refer to our dermatology and skin care hub.

Elidel and children

Elidel cream is approved to treat eczema in children ages 2 years and older.

Elidel can cause mild or serious side effects. The following lists contain some of the key side effects that may occur while taking Elidel. These lists do not include all possible side effects.

For more information about the possible side effects of Elidel, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can give you tips on how to manage any side effects that may be concerning or bothersome.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks the side effects of drugs it has approved. If you would like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Elidel, you can do so through MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Mild side effects* of Elidel can include:

Most of these side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. But if they become more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* This is a partial list of mild side effects from Elidel. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or view Elidel’s medication guide.
† For more information about this side effect, see “Side effect details” below.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from Elidel aren’t common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes, which could be a sign of infection. Symptoms can include:
    • swelling, pain, or soreness in the armpits, on sides of the neck, or in the groin area
  • Risks with long-term use.*†
  • Serious infection.*
  • Allergic reaction.*

* For more information about this side effect, see “Side effect details” below.
† Elidel has a boxed warning from the FDA for this side effect. A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Side effects in children

There were rare reports of skin warts in children given Elidel in clinical studies. Skin warts weren’t reported in adults who used Elidel. In most cases, the warts were treatable.

If your child has warts that won’t go away or get worse over time, their doctor will likely recommend they stop using Elidel. They may have your child use Elidel again once the skin warts are treated and go away.

If you have questions about using Elidel for your child, talk with their doctor.

Side effect details

Here’s some detail on certain side effects this drug may cause.

Risks with long-term use

Elidel has a boxed warning about risks with long-term use. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the FDA. The warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

There are risks with long-term use of Elidel. It’s not known if it’s safe to use the drug for longer than 1 year.

In studies, there have been rare cases of people developing cancer after using drugs called topical calcineurin inhibitors, including Elidel. Examples of the cancer include skin cancer and lymphoma.

It’s not known if this side effect was due to the medication or another cause. Because of the possible risk, it’s not advised to use Elidel for more than 1 year. Keep in mind that you should apply Elidel only to areas of skin that have eczema.

Talk with your doctor about your eczema treatment plan and how long you can safely use Elidel. You should not use Elidel for long-term treatment. It’s recommended that you do not take Elidel for more than 1 year, even with breaks between treatments. Your doctor can recommend the safest way for you to use Elidel to treat eczema.

Burning feeling where you apply the cream

It’s possible to feel burning when you apply Elidel. This was the most common side effect reported in clinical studies.

Burning or warmth where Elidel is applied is usually mild. It’s most likely to happen during your first few days using Elidel and typically goes away on its own.

If you have burning that does not go away or bothers you, talk with your doctor. They may recommend you stop using Elidel and try another treatment for your eczema.

Infection

Infection was a common side effect reported by people using Elidel cream in clinical studies. Most of the infections were mild. They included the flu and other viral infections, such as the common cold.

In rare cases, Elidel may increase your risk for serious infections, such as shingles.

Elidel can also increase your risk for skin infections, including chickenpox and cold sores. Keep in mind that having eczema can increase your risk for skin infections as well.

If you have symptoms of an infection, talk with your doctor about treating it before you start using Elidel. You should also speak with your doctor if you develop any symptoms of an infection while using Elidel.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Elidel. Allergic reaction was uncommon in clinical studies, but as with most drugs, it is possible.

Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat
  • trouble breathing

Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Elidel, as the reaction could become severe. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

As with all medications, the cost of Elidel can vary. To find current prices for Elidel in your area, check out GoodRx.com.

The cost you find on GoodRx.com is what you may pay without insurance. The actual price you’ll pay depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Keep in mind that you may be able to get a 90-day supply of Elidel. If approved by your insurance company, getting a 90-day supply of the drug could reduce your number of trips to the pharmacy and help lower the cost. If you’re interested in this option, check with your doctor or your insurance company.

Before approving coverage for Elidel, your insurance company may require you to get prior authorization. This means that your doctor and insurance company will need to communicate about your prescription before the insurance company will cover the drug. The insurance company will review the prior authorization request and decide if the drug will be covered.

If you’re not sure whether you’ll need to get prior authorization for Elidel, contact your insurance company.

Financial and insurance assistance

Financial assistance to help you pay for Elidel may be available.

Bausch Health Companies Inc., the manufacturer of Elidel, offers a program that may help lower the cost of their drug. To find out more information and see if you’re eligible for this assistance, call 833-862-8727 or visit the manufacturer’s website.

Mail-order pharmacies

Elidel may be available through a mail-order pharmacy. Using this service may help lower the drug’s cost and allow you to get your medication without leaving home.

If recommended by your doctor, you may be able to receive a 90-day supply of Elidel, so there’s less concern about running out of the medication. If you’re interested in this option, check with your doctor and your insurance company. Some Medicare plans may help cover the cost of mail-order medications.

If you don’t have insurance, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist about online pharmacy options.

Generic version

Elidel is available in a generic form called pimecrolimus cream. (A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication.)

Generics are considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. And generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs. To find out how the cost of pimecrolimus cream compares to the cost of Elidel, visit GoodRx.com.

If your doctor has prescribed Elidel and you’re interested in using pimecrolimus cream instead, talk with your doctor. They may have a preference for one version or the other. You’ll also need to check your insurance plan, as it may only cover one or the other.

Other drugs are available that can treat eczema. Some may be a better fit for you than others. If you’re interested in finding an alternative to Elidel, talk with your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that may work well for you.

Note: Some of the drugs listed here are used off-label to treat these specific conditions. Off-label use is when a drug that’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is used for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat eczema include:

  • Topical medications, which you apply to your skin, such as:
    • crisaborole (Eucrisa)
    • hydrocortisone
    • mometasone (Elocon)
    • tacrolimus (Protopic)
  • Medications you take by mouth, such as:
    • azathioprine (Muran)

The following information describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.

Drug forms and strengths

Elidel comes as a topical (applied to the skin) cream. It’s available in one strength: 1%. This means that 1 gram (g) of Elidel cream contains 10 milligrams (mg) of pimecrolimus.

Dosage for eczema

You’ll apply a thin layer of Elidel cream to the area of your skin that has eczema. Most people will apply Elidel cream twice daily.

Children’s dosage

For children ages 2 years and older, the dosage of Elidel is the same as the adult dosage. See “Dosage for eczema” above.

Elidel should not be used in children younger than age 2 years.*

* Elidel has a boxed warning from the FDA for this side effect. A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

What if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of Elidel, apply it as soon as you remember. But if it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and apply your usual dose at its regular time. You should not apply extra cream to try and make up for the missed dose.

To help make sure that you don’t miss a dose, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm or using a timer. You could also download a reminder app on your phone.

Will I need to use this drug long term?

Elidel is not meant to be used as a long-term treatment.* Your doctor can help you determine the length of time you’ll use Elidel.

Typically, you should use Elidel for the shortest amount of time needed to help treat your eczema symptoms. If your symptoms haven’t lessened after using Elidel for 6 weeks, your doctor may recommend a different treatment for your condition.

* Elidel has a boxed warning about risks with long-term use. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the FDA. The warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Alcohol isn’t known to interact with Elidel.

Talk with your doctor about how much, if any, alcohol is safe to drink during your eczema treatment.

Elidel can interact with several other medications.

Different interactions can cause different effects. For instance, some interactions can interfere with how well a drug works. Other interactions can increase side effects or make them more severe.

Elidel and other medications

Below is a list of medications that can interact with Elidel. This list does not contain all drugs that may interact with Elidel.

Before taking Elidel, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Tell them about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also, tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you use. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.

If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Drugs that may interact with Elidel include CYP3A inhibitors. These drugs prevent the CYP3A enzyme (a type of protein) from breaking down drugs in your body. It’s not known what effect , if any, CYP3A inhibitors may have on Elidel levels in your body. They could cause the drug to build up, which could increase your risk for side effects.*

Examples of CYP3A inhibitors include:

* To learn more about side effects, see the “Elidel side effects” section above.

Elidel and herbs and supplements

There aren’t any herbs or supplements that have been specifically reported to interact with Elidel. However, you should still check with your doctor or pharmacist before using any of these products while using Elidel.

Elidel and foods

There aren’t any foods that have been specifically reported to interact with Elidel. Certain foods and drinks may worsen eczema symptoms. If you have any questions about which foods to eat while taking Elidel, talk with your doctor.

You should use Elidel according to the instructions your doctor gives you.

Elidel is a topical cream medication, which means you apply it directly to your skin. Here are some important tips to keep in mind when using Elidel:

  • Wash your hands before you apply Elidel. You can apply Elidel cream after bathing or showering but be sure your skin is completely dry.
  • Use the smallest amount of Elidel needed to cover areas of skin that have eczema. You should not apply the cream to places where you don’t have eczema.
  • Apply Elidel only to your skin. Do not apply Elidel to your eyes, mouth, nose, rectum, or vagina.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after you apply Elidel unless you’re treating eczema on your hands.
  • Avoid bathing, showering, or swimming after you apply Elidel. Exposure to water could wash the cream off.
  • Avoid artificial sunlight, including sun lamps, tanning beds, and treatment with UV light therapy while using Elidel. If you must be in the sun, limit your exposure as much as possible. Wear loose-fitting clothing to protect the treated areas from the sun. Your doctor can advise you on other types of sun protection you may want to consider, such as sunscreen.
  • Do not cover the areas you are treating with Elidel with bandages, dressings, tight clothing. Doing so could cause you to absorb more Elidel than usual. This may cause the drug to build up in your body and increase your risk for side effects.*

* To learn more about side effects, see the “Elidel side effects” section above.

When to use

You should apply a thin layer of Elidel cream to the skin affected by eczema twice a day.

To help make sure that you don’t miss a dose, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm or using a timer. You could also download a reminder app on your phone.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Elidel for treating mild to moderate eczema (also called atopic dermatitis).

About eczema

Eczema is a type of skin condition. It occurs when your immune system becomes overactive and doesn’t work as usual.

Eczema can cause inflammation (swelling and damage) of the skin that allows moisture to escape. This can cause your skin to become dry. It can also cause a rash that appears red, brown, purple, or gray.

Itching is the most common symptom in people with eczema. Other common symptoms of eczema can include skin that’s discolored, painful or sore.

Damage to the skin may also increase your risk of infection. Because the skin is dry, it’s more prone to cuts or wounds.

Eczema usually begins in early childhood but can happen at any time. It’s a long-term condition that may improve at certain times but can also worsen at other times (flares or flare-up).

How Elidel cream works

Elidel contains the active drug pimecrolimus. It’s not known how pimecrolimus works to treat eczema. But clinical studies have shown that the drug is effective in decreasing the activity of your immune system. This reduces inflammation (swelling) of your skin.

How long does it take to work?

In clinical studies, some people using Elidel saw reduced eczema symptoms within 8–15 days after starting Elidel treatment. But it may take up to a month before you start seeing improvements in your eczema symptoms.

If your symptoms haven’t lessened after using Elidel cream for 6 weeks, talk with your doctor. They may recommend another treatment for your eczema.

It’s not known if Elidel is safe to use during pregnancy. There haven’t been studies on pregnant people using the medication.

The manufacturer of Elidel, Bausch Health Companies Inc., recommends using the medication while pregnant only if the benefits outweigh the risks. If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor. They can review the pros and cons of using this drug for your condition.

If you become pregnant while using Elidel, talk with your doctor right away. They can help advise you on the best treatment options for your eczema during your pregnancy.

It’s not known if Elidel is safe to use during pregnancy. If you’re sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your birth control needs while you’re using Elidel.

For more information about taking Elidel during pregnancy, see the “Elidel and pregnancy” section above.

Breastfeeding while using Elidel is not recommended.

This is because it’s not known if it’s safe to use Elidel cream while breastfeeding. There’s no information on whether Elidel can pass into breast milk or if it causes side effects in a breastfed child.

Talk with your doctor about the best way to feed your child if you’re using Elidel. They may recommend other feeding options so you can continue using Elidel. Or they may recommend other treatments for your eczema that are safer to use while breastfeeding.

This drug comes with several precautions.

FDA warning: Long-term safety not known

This drug has a boxed warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

There maybe be risks with long-term use of Elidel. There have been rare reports of people developing cancer after using drugs called topical calcineurin inhibitors, including Elidel. Examples of the cancer include skin cancer and lymphoma.

It’s not known if this side effect was due to the medication or another cause. Because of the possible risk, it’s not advised to use Elidel for more than 1 year. Keep in mind that you should apply Elidel only to areas of skin that have eczema.

It’s important to note that Elidel cream is not approved for use in children younger than 2 years old.

For more information on this boxed warning, see “Side effect details” in the “Elidel side effects” section above.

Other precautions

Before using Elidel, talk with your doctor about your health history. Elidel may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors affecting your health. These include:

  • Netherton syndrome. If you have a rare genetic condition called Netherton syndrome, your doctor will likely not prescribe Elidel. People with Netherton syndrome have skin that is more prone to absorbing Elidel. This can increase the risk of the medication reaching your blood, which can raise your risk of side effects. Talk with your doctor about safe treatment options for eczema if you have Netherton syndrome.
  • Skin infection. If you have symptoms of a skin infection, such as chickenpox or shingles, your doctor will likely not prescribe Elidel. The drug can increase your risk for infection and make it difficult to treat an existing infection. It’s not known whether it’s safe to use Elidel while you have an active skin infection. Talk with your doctor about treatment for your infection before you start using Elidel.
  • Weakened immune system. If you’re immunocompromised (have a weak immune system), your doctor will likely not prescribe Elidel. The drug works by slowing down the activity of your immune system, which can increase your risk of infection. It’s not known if it’s safe for people with weak immune systems to use Elidel. Talk with your doctor about other treatments for your eczema.
  • Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Elidel or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Elidel. Ask your doctor what other medications may be better options for you.
  • Pregnancy. It is not known if Elidel cream is safe to use while pregnant. For more information, see the “Elidel and pregnancy” section above.
  • Breastfeeding. Using Elidel while breastfeeding is not recommended. For more information, see the “Elidel and breastfeeding” section above.

Note: For more information about the potential negative effects of Elidel, see the “Elidel side effects” section above.

Do not use more Elidel than your doctor recommends. For some drugs, doing so may lead to unwanted side effects or overdose.

What to do in case you use too much Elidel

If you think you’ve used too much of this drug, call your doctor. You can also call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use its online tool. But if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or your local emergency number, or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

When you get Elidel from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on the packaging. This date is typically 1 year from the date they dispensed the medication.

The expiration date helps guarantee that the medication is effective during this time. The current stance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to avoid using expired medications. If you have unused medication that has gone past the expiration date, talk with your pharmacist about whether you might still be able to use it.

Storage

How long a medication remains good to use can depend on many factors, including how and where you store the medication.

You should store Elidel at room temperature of 77°F (25°C) in its original container. For short periods, such as when traveling, you can store Elidel between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C). Avoid storing this medication in areas where it could get damp or wet, such as bathrooms.

Disposal

If you no longer need to use Elidel and have leftover medication, it’s important to dispose of it safely. This helps prevent others, including children and pets, from taking the drug by accident. It also helps keep the drug from harming the environment.

This article provides several useful tips on medication disposal. You can also ask your pharmacist for information about how to dispose of your medication.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.