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What You Should Know Before Taking Psoriasis Drugs

If you suffer from psoriasis, you've likely seen the deluge of TV commercials advertising some of the newest drugs. But are they the best treatment for you?
What You Should Know Before Taking Psoriasis Drugs
By Beth Skwarecki
Published: February 2, 2017
Last updated: March 22, 2017
 

If you have psoriasis, you’re not alone — even social media queen Kim Kardashian admits to the occasional outbreak. And TV audiences are barraged with ads for 2 new drugs for psoriasis to win as top psoriasis drug — not to be the most effective or the safe drug, but the most sold in order to be the most profitable. Sales have increased dramatically for both drugs, but are they the best choice for your psoriasis?

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Psoriasis has been managed with a variety of drugs in the past, but the flurry of ads for Cosentyx vs. Taltz is doing its job. Just 3 months after advertising started for Taltz, the percent of dermatologists receiving a patient request for Taltz tripled. “What is important is that 43% of the patient inquiries resulted in a prescription for Taltz. I do not think that it is a coincidence that this significant bump in requests occurred directly post-launch of Lilly’s direct to consumer campaign,” said industry analyst Lynn Price from Spherix Global Insights told FiercePharma.

The Newest Drugs Are Powerful… and Expensive

But these new drugs are very powerful — not to mention very expensive — with significant side effects. How do you determine what’s the best way to handle psoriasis for you?

Psoriasis may look like a rash, but the underlying cause goes deeper. Instead, oral and injectable treatments are needed to rein in the inflammation that is disrupting the way skin cells grow.

Psoriasis’ trademark scaly patches result from the body’s own immune system attacking the skin. In response, skin cells grow too quickly. For 80% of those with psoriasis, a topical steroid cream is enough to manage the problem.

No drug or ointment will make your skin perfect, but realize that prescription drugs carry more side effects.

Over-the-counter cortisone creams are the most common. They’ve been used for many years so the side effects and long-term effects are known. You should only use them when you experience a flare-up and don’t use them more than 3 weeks running.

Realize that it’s quite likely that no ointment, drug or shot will make your skin perfect. The prescription drugs (ointment, pills or injectable) are more aggressive but have to be continued forever to keep psoriasis at bay. The prescription drugs all have more and very serious risks of side effects and unknown long-term risk. Recognizing that, you might decide that scaly patches in small areas of your body is acceptable. Or you may not. It’s your choice.

Biologics Gaining Ground As Treatment Option

Most of the prescription psoriasis drugs help by dampening all of the body’s immune responses, or by slowing down cell growth. These tend to have a lot of side effects because they affect many organs and functions throughout the body.

A newer approach involves biologics that target a more specific part of the immune system involved in psoriasis. The good news is that they have fewer side effects, but the bad news is they haven’t been studied for long-term effects and they can be extremely expensive.

“There is risk associated with taking any therapy, [but patients should consider] those risks against the risk of just living with psoriasis — which we know is a systemic inflammatory disease,” says Dr. Michael Siegel, director of research for the National Psoriasis Foundation. And untreated psoriasis, in some cases, can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, psoriatic arthritis, and more.

Find out more about the different types of drugs used to treat psoriasis and their associated side effects with this Need to Know.

Beth Skwarecki

Beth Skwarecki

Beth Skwarecki is a freelance health and science writer based in Pittsburgh, PA

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