Oral lichen planus (OLP) is a condition where there are long-term, painful areas on the lining of the mouth. The treatment is for reducing pain but there is no cure for this disease. Usual treatment is steroid ointment applied directly to the painful areas. This review found no research evidence to show that one type of steroid is better or worse than another. There is no evidence that a group of treatments called calcineurin inhibitors (e.g. pimecrolimus) are more effective than placebo. This review found that aloe vera may reduce pain and clinical signs of OLP.
Although topical steroids are considered to be first line treatment, we identified no RCTs that compared steroids with placebo in patients with symptomatic OLP. From the trials in this review there is no evidence that one steroid is any more effective than another. There is weak evidence that aloe vera may reduce the pain of OLP and improve the clinical signs of disease compared to placebo. There is weak and unreliable evidence that cyclosporin may reduce pain and clinical signs of OLP. There is no evidence that other calcineurin inhibitors reduce pain compared to either steroids or placebo. From the 28 trials included in this systematic review, the wide range of interventions compared means there is insufficient evidence to support the effectiveness of any specific treatment as being superior.
Oral lichen planus (OLP) is a common chronic autoimmune disease associated with cell-mediated immunological dysfunction. Symptomatic OLP is painful and complete healing is rare.
To assess the effectiveness and safety of any form of therapy for symptomatic OLP.
The following electronic databases were searched: the Cochrane Oral Health Group Trials Register (to 26 January 2011), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2011, Issue 1), MEDLINE via OVID (1950 to 26 January 2011) and EMBASE via OVID (1980 to 26 January 2011). There were no restrictions regarding language or date of publication.
All randomised controlled clinical trials (RCTs) of therapy for symptomatic OLP which compared treatment with a placebo or between treatments or no intervention were considered in this review.
The titles and abstracts of all reports identified were scanned independently by two review authors. All studies meeting the inclusion criteria were assessed for risk of bias and data were extracted. For dichotomous outcomes, the estimates of effects of an intervention were expressed as risk ratios (RR) together with 95% confidence intervals. For continuous outcomes, mean differences (MD) and 95% confidence intervals were used to summarise the data for each group. The statistical unit was the patient. Meta-analyses were done only with studies of similar comparisons reporting the same outcome measures.
28 trials were included in this review. Pain is the primary outcome of this review because it is the indication for treatment of OLP, and therefore this review indicates as effective, only those treatments which significantly reduce pain. Although topical steroids are considered first line treatment for symptomatic OLP, we identified no RCTs that compared steroids with placebo. There is no evidence from the three trials of pimecrolimus that this treatment is better than placebo in reducing pain from OLP. There is weak evidence from two trials, at unclear and high risk of bias respectively, that aloe vera may be associated with a reduction in pain compared to placebo, but it was not possible to pool the pain data from these trials. There is weak and unreliable evidence from two small trials, at high risk of bias, that cyclosporin may reduce pain and clinical signs of OLP, but meta-analysis of these trials was not possible.
There were five trials that compared steroids with calcineurin inhibitors, each evaluating a different pair of interventions. There is no evidence from these trials that there is a difference between treatment with steroids compared to calcineurin inhibitors with regard to reducing pain associated with OLP. From six trials there is no evidence that any specific steroid therapy is more or less effective at reducing pain compared to another type or dose of steroid.