A new prescription gel that treats actinic keratosis (AK) may work faster and more effectively than other available topical treatments, according to a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

LEO Pharma’s Picato (Ingenol mebutate) is used once daily for two to three days to treat precancerous AKs. Other available treatments must be used for several weeks or months, and often cause skin irritation.

“The shorter application period is what makes ingenol mebutate a breakthrough in the treatment of actinic keratosis,” says study author Mark Lebwohl, MD, a professor and chair of the department of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, in a press release. “Many patients find it difficult to stick with the current regimen. The shorter period is a more effective option for patients who don’t want a treatment that interferes with their everyday lives for weeks or even months.”

The new study included 547 patients with AKs on the face or scalp and 458 patients with AKs on the trunk or extremities. About half of each group received the new gel and the rest received a placebo gel. At the end of the evaluation period, 42% of the first group that received ingenol mebutate and 34% of the second group who received the new gel showed complete clearance of their AK, compared to about 4% and 5%, respectively, of patients in the placebo groups.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine