Whenever we purchase a prescription, there is always an insert or attached label outlining that specific drug’s usage. More often than not, we toss it into the trash. What we should be doing is taking the time to read the insert because it holds extremely valuable information. However, on the contrary, there is misguided information that needs to be looked at closely.
The following is seen on the insert for Clobetasol Propionate, a Class 1 Super Potent steroid:
In bold letters: do not use for more than 2 weeks, 50g per week, because it can suppress the HPA axis.
First off, it warns not use to this for more than 14 days. What it does not say is “Do not use for more than 14 days unless your doctor thinks it’s cool.” There is a definite reason why it states that warning despite what your doctor tells you.
HPA axis suppression is not something you, or your doctor, should take lightly. You are highly increasing your chances of developing Red Skin Syndrome and creating an imbalance in your adrenal glands.
Also, what does 50g a week mean to you? Most likely nothing because you are not a doctor and have no idea how to measure out 50g.
Let’s say your doctor gave you a tube that was 60g large, and their instructions were to “use on flaring areas once a day.” That was it. That was all they told you. Well, your thighs, hands, elbow area, and neck are flaring. These areas combined, using the fingertip method, come out to around 10g a day of use. 10g x 7 days = 70g a week. That is over the maximum limit of use.
But let’s take this further. In bold, the insert states:
“Precautions: General: Clobetasol Propionate is a highly potent topical corticosteroid that has been shown to suppress the HPA axis at doses as low as 2g per day.”
2g per day! That is around 4 fingertip units a day.
2g x 7 days a week = 14g a week. So, more accurately, 50g a week is WAY too much. Even if 14g a week is seen as the ‘minimum’ to cause HPA axis suppression, that means THERE IS A POSSIBILITY it can happen with just 14g a week, which in turn shows there is a LARGE POSSIBILITY it will happen at the ‘safe usage’ of 50g a week.
That 36g difference is remarkable. This is something that rarely ever gets explained in a doctor’s office. When a doctor gives you the instruction to “use sparingly”, this is what they should be explaining to you.
But let’s move on.
When using steroids, adults are not equal to children.
“Pediatric patients may be more susceptible to systemic toxicity from equivalent doses due to their large skin surface to body mass ratios.”
First off, the word systemic should bounce out. If any doctor tells you that topical steroids “are not systemic”, they are lying to you. Just because you are not orally using them, does not mean they do not penetrate our skin and enter our system.
And two, this should put up a huge warning flag. If 14g a week is the lowest dose they saw suppression in for adults, try halving that, or even one quarter. That would be between 4g and 8g a week for small children and babies. And, because they are smaller, there is a larger chance of suppression. Besides, in bold caps, the insert says, “Use in children under 12 years of age is not recommended.” If a doctor prescribes this to a child under 12, especially a baby, know that this recommendation should read more as a forbiddance.
“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 clobetasol propionate should be discontinued until the infection has been adequately controlled.”
First off, you’ve got the vague “promptly” in there. Give us actual numbers, perhaps, “1-2 days”. And secondly, you should NEVER use steroids on an infection. It will just make them worse. Check out Tinea Incognito.
“#5 Patients should inform their physicians that they are using clobetasol propionate if surgery in contemplated.”
I had never heard of this before, so I do hope this information is shared in the doctor’s office and not left for the patient to (not) read in the insert.
And last, but certainly not least, in lovely bold writing, “should not be used on the face, groin, or axiliae”. This isn’t a recommendation. This is a definite warning.