Etanercept as a Treatment for Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis

Summary and Comment |
July 22, 2014

Etanercept as a Treatment for Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis

  1. Craig A. Elmets, MD

A single subcutaneous injection of a TNF inhibitor effectively treated moderate to severe TEN.

  1. Craig A. Elmets, MD

Toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) is a serious skin condition with a mortality rate of approximately 30%. Management includes removal of the inciting agent (withdrawal of offending drug, antimicrobial therapy for infectious agents, etc.) and supportive care. Many patients also receive systemic steroids, cyclosporine, or IVIg, aimed at improving skin and mucosal lesions. These authors report the results of treatment with the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor etanercept.

A TEN diagnosis was given if the patient had blisters and erosions involving >30% of body surface area. In all 10 cases, a drug or phytotherapy product was the suspected cause. Several patients had mucosal, ocular, or genital involvement. Severity was quantified using the SCORe of Toxic Epidermal Necrosis (SCORTEN) scale; three patients had severe disease and none had mild disease. All patients were provided supportive therapy and received a single dose of etanercept (50 mg subcutaneously) within 6 hours of hospitalization. There were no deaths despite an expected death rate of 30%, based on the SCORTEN scores. Complete cures occurred in all 10 patients, with no adverse effects or complications attributable to etanercept. The median time to healing was 8.5 days (range 7–20 days).


Previous case reports described an association between TNF inhibitors and reduced disease severity and healing of skin lesions in toxic epidermal necrolysis. However, this is the largest published series of TEN patients treated with a TNF inhibitor. Unfortunately, a comparison group was not included. However, these findings are impressive and could form the basis for larger clinical trials of efficacy. Until such studies are conducted, it may be reasonable to consider etanercept or other TNF inhibitors as a treatment for TEN.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Craig A. Elmets, MD at time of publication Consultant / Advisory board Astellas Pharmaceuticals Grant / Research support NIH; NIH/NCI; Veteran’s Administration; Ferndale Laboratories; Abbvie Editorial boards Cancer Prevention Research; Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, & Photomedicine; UpToDate; eMedicine; Journal of Dermatological Sciences Leadership positions in professional societies American Academy of Dermatology (Chair, Clinical Guidelines and Research Committee); Photomedicine Society (Board of Directors)


Reader Comments (3)

Robert Walther

And just how do you get this medicine acutely?

robert m. miller, md Physician, Dermatology, office

will definitely use on next patient, even just Stevens-Johnson

Tim Beer, MD Physician, Internal Medicine

This is pretty big time. Thanks for sharing.

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