Psoriasis Treatments Entering New Era
Safer, More Effective Psoriasis Drugs Emerging
WebMD News Archive
June 5, 2003 -- Nearly a million people with psoriasis may be
not getting the treatment they need and may be missing out on new, more
effective psoriasis treatments. Researchers say recent developments in
biotechnology are yielding a new generation of treatments for people with the
chronic skin condition.
Researchers say up to 7 million people in the U.S. suffer from
psoriasis, which typically strikes young people between the ages of 15 and 35.
The disease causes scaling and inflammation of the skin and can vary in
severity from small patches of irritation on the elbows, knees, and scalp to
potentially disabling flare-ups that affect large portions of the body.
"Psoriasis is probably one of the most misunderstood
diseases because most of what we learn is mainly from commercials on TV talking
about the heartbreak of psoriasis or using a shampoo to get rid of a few flakes
in your scalp," says Kenneth B. Gordon, MD, associate professor of medicine
in the division of dermatology at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood,
"Psoriasis is a disease that's driven by the immune system.
It's a disease where you see the physical manifestations are in the skin. In
many cases, however, it's the blood cells -- the immune cells -- that drive the
skin changes you see," says Gordon, who spoke at an American Medical
Association briefing on inflammatory diseases in New York City.
Old Psoriasis Treatments Limited
Researchers say that new understanding of the role the immune
system plays in triggering psoriasis has led to targeted psoriasis treatments
that block the chain of events that cause inflammation.
Until now, psoriasis treatments were limited to topical steroid
creams applied to affected areas of the skin, phototherapy using ultraviolet
light, and drugs such as Accutane, methotrexate, and cyclosporine. Although
these traditional psoriasis treatments can be effective in many patients,
researchers say they are limited by their significant long-term side
"Psoriasis for me is characterized by frustration about the
limited options available," says Michael Paranzino, who has suffered from
severe psoriasis for several years and now serves as patient advocate for the
National Psoriasis Foundation. "It was slim pickings all through the
Paranzino says the fear of running out of options and the lack
of choices are major issues that prompt many people with psoriasis to give up
on finding effective psoriasis treatments.
New Drugs Arriving
But researchers say many new drugs are now available or in
development that target the specific elements of the immune system involved in
psoriasis and can provide lasting relief with fewer side effects than
conventional psoriasis treatments.
- Amevive became the first biologic agent approved by the FDA in
January 2003 to treat moderate to severe psoriasis and works by suppressing the
hyperactive immune system response involved in psoriasis.
- Enbrel, which is commonly used in treating rheumatoid arthritis, was
also recently approved for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis and is showing
promise in treating psoriasis. Enbrel works by targeting a protein in the body
called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), which is a key player in the
- Remicade and Humira are TNF-alpha-inhibiting drugs that are
available for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and are also being studied
as psoriasis treatments.
- Raptiva is under development and pending FDA approval as a psoriasis
treatment. It also works by targeting the inflammatory processes involved in