Psoriasis Treatments Face Off
2 Popular Psoriasis Drugs Equally Effective but Have Different Side Effects
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 13, 2003 -- Two common drugs used to treat moderate to
severe psoriasis are likely to produce similar results in people who suffer
from the skin disorder, according to a new study.
But researchers say although the psoriasis treatments,
methotrexate and cyclosporine, are equally effective, each drug has specific
side effects that should be taken into consideration.
Researchers say the study, published in the current issue of
TheNew England Journal of Medicine, is the first head-to-head
comparison of the drugs for psoriasis treatment.
Up to 7 million people in the U.S. suffer from psoriasis, which
typically strikes 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.
Various treatments for psoriasis are available, including
topical creams and ointments, ultraviolet light therapy, and drugs that
suppress the immune system, such as methotrexate and cyclosporine. For people
with severe forms of the disease, frequently rotating psoriasis treatments is
often recommended to reduce the risk of side effects, and cyclosporine is often
the last line of defense.
Drugs Produce Similar Results
In the study, researchers compared the effectiveness of the two
psoriasis treatments in 85 people with moderate to severe psoriasis for 16
The study showed 94% of all patients had at least a 25%
improvement in psoriasis severity and affected area after 12 weeks of psoriasis
The number of people who reached partial or complete remission
was also similar between the two groups. Quality of life was also similar.
Side Effects Vary
The study showed that side effects did vary according to each
- Significantly more patients reported nausea with methotrexate than
- More patients on cyclosporine reported headaches, muscle aches, and
numbness in the fingers than those on methotrexate.
- One patient had to discontinue treatment with cyclosporine because of signs
of liver damage.
- Twelve patients had to discontinue methotrexate treatment because of
elevations of liver enzymes.
Researcher Vera M.R. Heydendael, MD, of the University of
Amsterdam, and colleagues say that both drugs were relatively well tolerated
and the side effects were manageable.
Since the drugs were found to be equally effective, they say
differences between the two psoriasis treatments in terms of side effects, ease
of use (such as dosing regimens), and costs can be used to guide treatment
decisions on an individual basis.