Review of Enzymatic Therapy’s advertising for its salicylic acid product, Simicort.

Grade F

Simicort is an “all-natural” skin cream medicated with 1.8% salicylic acid. It is manufactured by a company called Enzymatic Therapy, which makes a large number of supplements and herbal preparations for all sorts of conditions. There is quite a bit of hype about Simicort being a psoriasis treatment without all the side effects of steroids. Well, sure, Simicort doesn’t have the side effects of steroids, because it has no steroids in it, but the impression that it’s some sort of all-natural steroid replacement is false. The name itself can give this impression, as there are several widely-known steroids with “cort” in their names.

Enzymatic Therapy’s own page about Simicort (duplicated at other sites, including Vibrant Health) begins with a bunch of “educational” information about skin. It discusses nutrients the skin requires, and implies that Simicort will deliver these vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, thereby making the skin healthy. Psoriasis, of course, is not caused by a simple nutrient deficiency. It’s also unclear, to me, if any of these nutrients will be absorbed through the skin in a form useful for skin health, as the things required for proper skin growth are usually delivered by the bloodstream after digestion of food.

The page then reiterates that Simicort is all-natural, safe, nontoxic, and nonallergenic. Salicylic acid, the active ingredient, can produce dryness and irritation of the skin. Other ingredients include licorice, which can produce a host of problems, comfrey, which should never be applied to broken skin, and dimethicone, a silicone water repellant and antifoaming agent, which, while being medically inert, is not something I’ve ever heard of as being natural.

Enzymatic Therapy directs users to apply Simicort “to affected areas of skin several times daily or as desired.” This kind of “direction” can lead to massive overuse of the medication, which would greatly increase the possibilities of side effects. This cream is an over-the-counter drug, and should be treated like any other drug. There is always a danger from overdose.

Total Health, one of many online “natural drugstores” which retails Simicort, also writes, “You’ll be happy to know that unlike many mainstream topical creams, it works without the side effects of steroids, which can actually cause rashes and other skin problems.” Well, salicylic acid can cause rashes and other skin problems, so Simicort won’t necessarily save you from some steroid-like side effects.

Michael T. Murray, ND, who was at one point Director of Research and Product Development for Enzymatic Therapy, claims that “the components of Simicort have demonstrated an effect equal to or superior to cortisone when applied topically.” This is, at the very least, misleading, as cortisone is not often used in the treatment of psoriasis (cortisone is a steroid, but not all steroids are cortisone). As I understand things, the steroids typically used are often much stronger. Also, this “demonstration” doesn’t seem to have been published, so the methodology and results are not available, and Murray expects us to take his word for it.

My last concern is about the price. From what I’ve seen, Simicort is (depending on which retailer you visit) around twice as expensive as, for example, the MG217 Sal-Acid ointment, which, while it may not have as many inactive ingredients, seems to be a comparable product (MG217 also uses 3% salicylic acid, which makes it almost twice as strong as Simicort).

Update, July 5, 2009: Just a bunch more broken links, with a few new ones, including a warning letter sent by the FDA to the company back in 2000.