Methods and findings: This was a parallel-group, randomised, controlled, observer-blind trial. Children aged 1 to 15 y with moderate to severe eczema were recruited from secondary care and the community at five UK medical centres. Participants were allocated using online randomisation (1:1) to standard care or to standard care plus silk garments, stratified by age and recruiting centre. Silk garments were worn for 6 mo. Primary outcome (eczema severity) was assessed at baseline, 2, 4, and 6 mo, by nurses blinded to treatment allocation, using the Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI), which was log-transformed for analysis (intention-to-treat analysis). A safety outcome was number of skin infections.
Three hundred children were randomised (26 November 2013 to 5 May 2015): 42% girls, 79% white, mean age 5 y. Primary analysis included 282/300 (94%) children (n = 141 in each group). The garments were worn more often at night than in the day (median of 81% of nights [25th to 75th centile 57% to 96%] and 34% of days [25th to 75th centile 10% to 76%]). Geometric mean EASI scores at baseline, 2, 4, and 6 mo were, respectively, 9.2, 6.4, 5.8, and 5.4 for silk clothing and 8.4, 6.6, 6.0, and 5.4 for standard care. There was no evidence of any difference between the groups in EASI score averaged over all follow-up visits adjusted for baseline EASI score, age, and centre: adjusted ratio of geometric means 0.95, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.07, (p = 0.43). This confidence interval is equivalent to a difference of −1.5 to 0.5 in the original EASI units, which is not clinically important. Skin infections occurred in 36/142 (25%) and 39/141 (28%) of children in the silk clothing and standard care groups, respectively. Even if the small observed treatment effect was genuine, the incremental cost per quality-adjusted life year was £56,811 in the base case analysis from a National Health Service perspective, suggesting that silk garments are unlikely to be cost-effective using currently accepted thresholds. The main limitation of the study is that use of an objective primary outcome, whilst minimising detection bias, may have underestimated treatment effects.
Conclusions: Silk clothing is unlikely to provide additional benefit over standard care in children with moderate to severe eczema.
- silk garments
- Randomised controlled trial
- economic evaluation