Key points about Zematop

  • Zematop is an ointment used to treat moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (also called eczema).
  • Zematop is also called tacrolimus ointment.
  • Find out how to apply it safely and possible side effects. 
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Zematop is used to treat moderate to severe  atopic dermatitis (also called atopic eczema), and prevent flares from recurring. Flares (or flare-ups) are when your symptoms come back or get worse. Zematop is used when other medications haven't worked well. It's also used to treat psoriasis.

Zematop works by suppressing your immune system and helps to control inflammation, redness, dryness and itching. Zematop belongs to a group of medicines called calcineurin inhibitors.

In Aotearoa New Zealand Zematop is available as an ointment.

Always use Zematop exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much ointment to use, how often to use it and any special instructions. The following is a guide.

For treating flares

Apply Zematop twice daily to the affected areas until your symptoms have cleared. Your doctor may recommend reducing to once daily.

  • If you forget to apply your ointment, apply it as soon as you remember that day. But if it's nearly time to apply your next dose, just apply it at the right time. Don't apply double the amount..
  • You should see an improvement within 1 week. See your doctor if you don't see any improvement after 2 weeks. If your treatment is still working well after 6 weeks, your doctor may switch you to maintenance dosing. 


For preventing flares (maintenance)

Apply Zematop once a day, twice a week to affected areas. For example, on Mondays and Thursdays. There should be 2 to 3 days without Zematop treatment between each application. Your doctor will review your treatment after 12 months.

  • Wash your hands before and after applying Zematop (if your hands are not being treated).
  • Apply Zematop as a thin layer to the affected areas of your skin.
  • If you are applying the ointment to your face, try to avoid getting it near to your eyes or to the inside of your nose or mouth. If this does happen accidentally, wipe it off straightaway.
  • Other creams and ointments shouldn't be used in the same area for 2 hours before and 2 hours following Zematop use.
  • Don't bath, shower or swim right after applying Zematop. This could wash off the ointment.

  • Skin infection: Don't apply Zematop to infected skin areas. This includes areas of the skin affected by viral infection such as cold sores (herpes simplex) or chickenpox. If your skin becomes infected during treatment you should inform your doctor. Your doctor may ask you to stop using Zematop until the infection has been adequately controlled.
  • Sun protection: Zematop makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. It's important to avoid unnecessary sun exposure and sunlamps. When you're outdoors, protect your skin by applying a good sunscreen (SPF 30+).
  • Dressings: Don't cover the skin being treated with bandages or dressings. However, you can wear normal clothing. Bandaging can increase the amount of medicine you absorb through your skin and may cause harmful effects. 
  • Limit alcohol: Drinking alcohol while you are using Zematop may cause your skin or face to feel hot and become flushed or red.
  • Pregnancy: If you become pregnant while using this medicine, discontinue use and tell your doctor immediately.

  • Once opened, Zematop ointment has a shelf life of 12 weeks. After this time, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about a new supply.   
  • Keep the ointment in a cool dry place where the temperature stays at or below 25°C. Heat and dampness can destroy some medicines.
  • Don't store Zematop in the bathroom or near a sink.
  • Don't leave it in a hot place, eg, in the car or on a windowsill. 

Like all medicines, Zematop can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Redness or burning feeling on your skin
  • This is quite common when you start using Zematop and usually goes away with time.
  • Initially, apply Zematop® to a small area of skin, before applying to larger area.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol – alcohol can make the redness worse.
  • Don't cover the area with a bandage or dressing.
  • Tell your doctor if these symptoms don't go away, if they are painful or bothering you. 
For more information on side effects, see the Medsafe consumer information leaflet Zematop(external link).

Did you know that you can report a medicine side effect to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.(external link)
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The following links have more information on Zematop.
Zematop(external link) Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet, NZ
Calcineurin inhibitors(external link) British Association of Dermatologists, UK

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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