If you're not getting relief from other treatments, your doctor may suggest you try a drug that fights the causes of psoriasis, rather than just the symptoms. These medications, called biologics, target a specific part of your immune system.
Biologics block the action of T-cells in your immune system, which cause the inflammation of psoriasis. It's a fairly new approach. So far, the only biologics approved by the FDA for the treatment of psoriasis are:
The symptoms of psoriasis include:
Areas of itchy, scaly skin on the scalp, knees, elbows, and upper body; these deep-pink, raised plaques of skin have white scales.
Psoriasis on fingernails and toenails can make the nails become thick, pitted, and discolored; nails may separate from underlying nail bed.
Red, scaly, cracked skin with tiny pustules on the palms of the hands and/or feet; you may have pustular psoriasis.
Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include:
Your immune system helps your body fight infection. Since biologics curb its action, taking them could make your body more vulnerable to other infections and diseases.
Some of these drugs may also cause flare-ups in some long-term diseases that your body now has under control, such as tuberculosis. They may not be prescribed if you take other medications that also curb the immune system.
Serious infections from fungi, bacteria, and viruses that spread throughout the body, sometimes leading to death, have occurred from taking biologics. If you have any sign of infection, such as fever, feeling run down, sore throat, or cough, contact your doctor right away. He may want to stop your medication temporarily and treat your infection. Also, lymphoma and other cancers have been reported in children and teens treated with biologics.
You can take biologic medication by injection, by mouth, or through an IV. When you get it by IV, the treatment can take 2 hours per session.
Choosing a Biologic
Enbrel. You can take this drug by injecting it under your skin at home. You use it twice weekly for 3 months. After that, you inject it once a week.
Side effects include skin irritation and rashes. You shouldn't take it if you have multiple sclerosis, a depressed immune system, hepatitis B, or heart failure.
Enbrel is also approved as a treatment for psoriatic arthritis.
Humira. You inject this drug under your skin every other week. People with heart failure or multiple sclerosis shouldn't take it.
Humira's side effects include serious and sometimes deadly infections such as tuberculosis, an increased risk of certain types of cancer such as lymphoma, and an increased risk of autoimmune disorders such as a lupus-like syndrome.