Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Systemic Treatments for Psoriasis

If you have moderate to severe psoriasis, your doctor may suggest "systemic drugs" -- medicines that affect your entire body. They're typically used when the skin condition covers more than 5% to 10% of your body and other methods haven't worked, like phototherapy and treatments you apply to your skin, such as creams, ointments, solutions, and foams.

While systemic treatment can help, many of the drugs can cause serious side effects. Your doctor will want to keep close tabs on you while you take them.

Recommended Related to Psoriasis

Stress and Psoriasis

Stress and psoriasis seem to go together. Stress can make psoriasis worse, and psoriasis can make you stressed. But there are ways to ease stress that may help your psoriasis, too. Learn techniques to relax. Try one of these stress-busters: Deep breathing Meditation Tai chi Yoga They can lower stress and may even help your treatment. One study found that people who listened to meditation tapes while they got light therapy did twice as well as those...

Read the Stress and Psoriasis article > >

Choosing a Treatment

Acitretin (Soriatane): This drug is made from vitamin A and affects the way your skin cells grow and are shed.

If you have plaque psoriasis -- inflamed, red skin with silvery scales -- it works best when you pair it with light phototherapy.

On its own, it works well to treat pustular psoriasis (a breakout of sore, red blisters or pus bumps) and erythrodermic psoriasis, where most of your skin looks intensely red and peeling, like it's burned.

This medication can cause serious birth defects even after you stop taking it. Don't take it if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant within 3 years of treatment.

Apremilast (Otezla): It helps fight inflammation by shutting down a certain enzyme in your immune system. Blocking this enzyme helps to slow other reactions that lead to inflammation.

This is a newer drug used just for diseases that cause long-term inflammation, like psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. It comes in pill form.

Cyclosporine: It curbs your immune system and slows skin-cell growth. It's reserved for severe cases of psoriasis, when nothing else seems to work.

You take it by mouth. While it can help clear psoriasis, its benefits typically end when you stop taking it.

Cyclosporine also carries risks. It can cause kidney problems, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. You shouldn't take it if you have a weak immune system or if you're breastfeeding. You should also avoid it if you're treating your psoriasis with  a form of phototherapy called PUVA.

Because of the side effects, experts suggest you not take the drug for more than a year at a time.

Today on WebMD

Woman sitting in front of UV lights
About 7.5 million people in the U.S. Get the facts.
stress and psoriasis
What might spark your psoriasis today?
woman bathing
Slideshow: Home Remedies For Psoriasis
woman applying lotion
It starts in the immune system. Read on.
Top Psoriasis Treatments To Try At Home
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Beware Miracle Diets For Psoriasis
Psoriasis Laser Therapy
10 Questions About Psoriasis To Ask Your Doctor
psoriasis on elbow
Psoriasis (Moderate to Severe)
Psoriatic Arthritis Do You Know The Symptoms