Pharmacokinetics: The extent of percutaneous absorption of topical corticosteroids is determined by many factors including the vehicle and the integrity of the epidermal barrier. Occlusive dressings with hydrocortisone for up to 24 hours have not been demonstrated to increase penetration; however, occlusion of hydrocortisone for 96 hours markedly enhances penetration. Topical corticosteroids can be absorbed from normal intact skin. Inflammation and/or other disease processes in the skin may increase percutaneous absorption.
There is little evidence as to what percentage of a topical corticosteroid dose is absorbed systemically. Studies investigating systemic effects do not measure how much of the corticosteroid is in the blood, but instead focus on measuring cortisol as a marker of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis suppression. After a few weeks’ treatment with potent or very potent topical corticosteroids temporary HPA axis suppression does occur. However, this resolves upon cessation of the topical corticosteroid, without the need for dose tapering. 5, 19 HPA axis suppression is more marked when topical corticosteroids are applied under occlusion, . with wet wraps.
Corticosteroids are generally teratogenic in laboratory animals when administered systemically at relatively low dosage levels. The more potent corticosteroids have been shown to be teratogenic after dermal application in laboratory animals. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women on teratogenic effects from topically applied corticosteroids. Therefore, topical corticosteroids should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus. Drugs of this class should not be used extensively on pregnant patients, in large amounts, or for prolonged periods of time.