Patient Preferences Drive Treatment Options for Early HS

Patient Preferences Drive Treatment Options for Early HS

Treatment options for individuals with early-stage hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) vary depending on patient preference and how clinicians define “early” HS. This can be challenging because to date, no FDA-approved treatments exist for early-stage HS and only two biologics exist for moderate to severe disease.

“For someone with occasional nodules and abscesses, we often use antibiotics and topical antiseptics,” Christopher Sayed, MD, a dermatologist at the HS and Follicular Disorders Clinic at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, told this news organization. “We may use these daily for weeks or months or just provide them to use for 1-2 weeks at a time for intermittent flares if a patient doesn’t want to take a pill every day,” he said. “For women, hormonal options like oral contraceptive pills and spironolactone can be a great option” if they don’t mind taking a daily pill.

Topical options that Jennifer L. Hsiao, MD, reaches for in her role as director of the HS clinic at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, include chlorhexidine wash, topical clindamycin, and topical resorcinol. Systemic medications include oral antibiotics such as doxycycline or clindamycin, while hormonal options include oral contraceptives and/or spironolactone for women and finasteride for men. 

Laser hair removal for both men and women can also help treat lesions and abscesses in the groin and axillae, since reducing hair follicles tends to result in fewer follicles that become inflamed and form nodules and abscesses over time, “but it requires multiple visits and not all patients have access to it,” Sayed said. “Once patients start to develop tunnels or scars or fail to respond to some of these other treatments, I am quick to open the conversation on biologics to help avoid progression and long-term need for surgery.”

Metformin Among Options to Consider

According to Hsiao, other treatment options to consider trying in patients with mild HS include metformin, “especially in patients who also have prediabetes, PCOS, or obesity;” isotretinoin if the patient has concomitant severe acne; botulinum toxin injections; apremilast or topical roflumilast, and antihyperhidrosis medications such as prescription aluminum chloride topicals, glycopyrronium wipes, and glycopyrrolate.

Recommending lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation and weight loss for patients diagnosed with early-stage HS is “challenging,” Sayed said, “because the evidence on different triggers and lifestyle modifications isn’t very strong. There can also be a lot of stigmas around weight and smoking in HS, and it can alienate patients to go straight to these topics in the first visit.” 

Many patients also ask what dietary changes they can make to improve their HS. “The most common things patients tend to bring up are dairy avoidance and reducing carbohydrates,” he said. “Supplements like zinc and turmeric are also frequently brought up by patients and some find them helpful. Once rapport is built, I may discuss smoking cessation as potentially helping prevent as much activity over time or weight loss as possibly helping improve response to treatments, but I don’t promise that these things always help since modifying them doesn’t always lead to improvement.”

Hsiao noted that existing research suggests that following a Mediterranean diet may benefit HS symptoms.

Early Data on Ruxolitinib Cream Promising

At the 2024 annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers reported on the results of a phase 2 study, which found that topical 1.5% ruxolitinib cream was effective in reducing abscess and inflammatory nodule count in patients with mild HS. “There is a major need for this kind of option, and the early results are promising,” said Sayed, who was not involved with the study. “It’s very difficult to get this covered for patients currently since it is off label for HS. We’ve gotten it for a few patients, and one has really liked it, but it’s unclear how consistent the others were with their use, and their level of improvement was not clear to me.”

For mild HS, he added, “the most important area in which we’ve seen growing evidence is around hair removal lasers such as Nd:YAG and alexandrite lasers. Improving access for patients is a major priority in the coming years.”

According to Hsiao, other approaches being studied for treating mild HS include a topical aryl hydrocarbon receptor agonist known as AT193, and oral medications, such as phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors. Laser therapies are also being studied, “such as fractional ablative CO2 laser therapy combined with topical triamcinolone,” she said. “However, the majority of ongoing HS trials are for moderate to severe disease, so there is certainly a need for more investigation into mild HS treatment approaches.”

Sayed disclosed that he is secretary of the HS Foundation and a member of the European HS Foundation. He has also served as a consultant for AbbVie, Alumis, AstraZeneca, Incyte, InflaRx, Novartis, Sanofi, Sonoma Biotherapeutics, and UCB; as a speaker for AbbVie, Novartis, and UCB; and as an investigator for Chemocentryx, Incyte, InflaRx, Novartis, and UCB. Hsiao disclosed that she is a member of the board of directors for the HS Foundation and has served as a consultant for AbbVie, Aclaris, Boehringer Ingelheim, Incyte, Novartis, and UCB; as a speaker for AbbVie, Novartis, Sanofi Regeneron, and UCB; and as an investigator for Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Incyte.

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