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Protopic, also known by its drug name Tacrolimus, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the short-term treatment of mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. Protopic is prescribed off-label to treat vitiligo in children, and on sensitive areas such as face, eyelids, genitals, or breasts.1 Protopic may be used in combination with phototherapy for vitiligo.1

Protopic is an immunomodulator, or drug that modifies the immune system. More specifically, Protopic is a topical calcineurin inhibitor. It is believed that Protopic works by suppressing immune system activity.

How do I take it?
Protopic comes in ointment form. Applied topically to affected areas twice daily, the drug is approved for short-term (weeks) or intermittent long-term use.2

Side effects
The FDA-approved label for Protopic lists common side effects including headache, flu-like symptoms, cough, fever, infection, allergic reaction, and burning, redness, or itching at the application site, and sensitivity to sunlight.3

Rare but serious side effects for Protopic include increased risk for serious infections and certain types of cancer.3 Protopic may be alternated with corticosteroids to avoid steroid side effects such as atrophy.4

External Resources

  • Protopic (Tacrolimus) Medication Guide (PDF) - FDA

  • Vitiligo Treatment Guidelines – VR Foundation

  • Vitiligo in Adults and Children – National Institutes of Health

  • Treatment Options for Vitiligo – US Pharmacist

  • Tacrolimus Topical – Medline Plus

  • References

    1. Matin R. (2011). Vitiligo in adults and children. BMJ clinical evidence, 2011, 1717

    2. Bennett, J. (2012, April 23). Treatment Options for Vitiligo. Retrieved December 2, 2019, from

    3. Protopic (Ointment) Uses, Dosage & Side Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2019, from

    4. DoctorsTreatment Guidelines. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2019, from

    Protopic (Tacrolimus) for Vitiligo Questions

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