Dapsone is a chemotherapeutic agent primarily used in treating leprosy, Pneumocystis jiroveci (previously carinii) pneumonia, and malaria. It is also used as an adjuvant in the treatment of pemphigus and pemphigoid.
To assess the role of dapsone in the treatment of pemphigus and pemphigoid, a retrospective review of reports in the English-language literature was conducted. Information on the number of patients treated, their average age, prior therapies, indications for use, protocol (dose and interval) used, concomitant therapies, reported adverse effects, and clinical outcomes were analyzed. There were 35 case reports/series published describing the use of dapsone in a total of 427 patients. Data on 55 pemphigus patients were obtained from several case reports and some case series and one
randomized controlled trial. Of these, 32 patients with pemphigus vulgaris and 14 patients with pemphigus foliaceus responded to dapsone. Data from 13 case series, each including at least five patients, accounted for 372 patients with pemphigoid. The overall response rates to dapsone, when given either alone or in combination with corticosteroids or immunosuppressive agents, were 84% in mucous membrane pemphigoid, and 81% in bullous pemphigoid. Hemolysis was the most common adverse effect observed. Dapsone is a promising and useful agent in patients with autoimmune mucocutaneous blistering diseases, especially in mucous membrane pemphigoid. It can be used as a corticosteroid-sparing agent. Therefore, its combined use with oral corticosteroids may be useful in pemphigus vulgaris and bullous pemphigoid. Adverse effects of dapsone are dose dependent and usually reversible. Hemolysis and concomitant anemia secondary to hemolysis are expected in most patients. In the opinion of the authors, dapsone is underutilized in the treatment of autoimmune mucocutaneous blistering diseases.