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New Treatments Ease Eczema, Psoriasis

New Treatments Spell Relief for Millions and With Fewer Side Effects

Et Tu Psoriasis?

The treatment of psoriasis, too, is looking up, says Abby S. Van Voorhees, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Psoriasis affects 6 to 7 million Americans and accounts for 2.4 million annual doctor visits and costs about $3 billion a year, she said at a press briefing. The inflammatory skin condition causes red scaly lesions or plaques that are found on the knees, elbows, trunk, and buttocks.

Older treatments were either not entirely effective or highly toxic, but a new class of treatments known as biologics nip the inflammation cascade of psoriasis in the bud. They do this by blocking the activation of cells of the immune system which kicks off the reaction that eventually results in the formation of psoriatic lesions on the skin.

Unlike older therapies, "these drugs do not affect the liver, kidney, or bone marrow," she says.

"We have many more choices now that allow us to individualize treatment and provide options for resistant disease," Van Voorhees says.

"It's a very exciting and I am optimistic," she explains. "The future is really looking very bright."

So far three biologics are approved to treat psoriasis -- Amevive, Enbrel, and Raptiva.

Some caveats exist with the new biologics, namely the expense.

"They are expensive and price tags range from $8,000 to $20,000 a year for these medications. Currently there are insurers that are paying for them," she says.

"This is a disease that can have a profound effect and I believe that psoriasis patients have every bit as much of a right to expensive medications as patients with other diseases," she adds.

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