By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) — For many years, the most common treatment for eczema has been steroid creams, but they can have drawbacks and do not work for everyone. Now for the first time in decades, there’s a new treatment for eczema that’s showing promise. 

Tony D’Amico is itchy all the time.

“I was like squirming, trying not to itch, and everything, but it’s impossible not to,” explains Tony.

Tony has eczema, a condition in which an overactive immune system attacks the skin, leading to red, dry, irritated patches . Eczema affects 1 in 8 children.

Tony has tried typical steroid creams, but they aren’t ideal.

“It made his skin very sensitive,” says Amy D’Amico, Tony’s mother.  “Sensitive to sun. It seemed to make his skin thinner, too,” she adds.

Dr. Douglas Kress is a pediatric dermatologist who agrees steroid creams have their drawbacks.

“If you overuse topical steroids, you can thin the skin,” Dr. Kress explains.  “You can develop steroid acne.  You can get stretch marks.”

Dr. Kress says new options are long overdue.

“We haven’t really had a new treatment for eczema in decades. And now there’s the first hint of one coming,” says Dr. Kress.

The new medicine, in a class called biologics, would be given as a shot every other week to calm the immune system.

Designed for people who have not responded to steroid creams, in four out of five study participants who took the medication, symptoms improved 50% to 70% over 12 weeks.

Infection is a concern and the drug is likely to be very expensive, tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Dr. Kress hopes that for kids with severe disease, it would be covered by insurance.  So do Tony and his family.

“I would gladly take a shot over taking pills or putting on creams anymore,” says Tony.

The new drug, called dupilumab, still needs to gain FDA approval, but if all goes well, it could be on the market in 2017.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

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