Medicines called biologics have shown promise for the treatment of severe
psoriasis or psoriasis that has not improved after other treatments. Biologics
are similar to or the same as
proteins made by the body. These medicines, including
alefacept and etanercept, block the harmful response of the body's
immune system that causes the symptoms of psoriasis.
The long-term safety of biologics is not known.
In general, treatment for psoriasis starts with medicines
you spread on the affected areas of your skin (topical medicines).
Many types of nonprescription products are available to treat psoriasis. Examples of active ingredients include:
Salicylic acid, found in products such as Psoriasin Body Wash or Dermasolve e70.
Coal tar, found in products such as Elta Tar or Neutrogena T/Gel.
- Zinc pyrithione, found in products such as SkinCure and Derma-Cap. These are new products that come in spray, soap, or
These products are used to treat small patches of psoriasis and symptoms,
including itching, redness, flaking, and scaling of the skin and scalp. For some people, they may eliminate
scales and sores caused by psoriasis.
Topical medicines that may be prescribed by your
doctor to treat psoriasis include:
Corticosteroids, which are the most
common treatment for psoriasis. Betamethasone is an
example of a topical corticosteroid.
is a form of vitamin D.
Retinoids, which are medicines related
to vitamin A. An example is tazarotene.
tars. The use of anthralin and tars has decreased
recently, replaced by other medicines such as calcipotriene and
If topical medicines alone do not relieve your psoriasis
symptoms, they may be combined with exposure to
ultraviolet (UV) light (phototherapy).
Examples include combinations of:
- Psoralen and UVA light (called
- Tars and UVB light (called
- Anthralin and UVB light (called the Ingram
If psoriasis cannot be controlled with topical medicines
and ultraviolet light therapy, you may consider taking medicines by mouth (oral
medicines). Oral medicines used to treat psoriasis include:
Newer medicines, which change the
immune system response to reduce the symptoms of
psoriasis, may be used to treat psoriasis that other medicines don?t help.
These medicines are given through a needle. Early clinical trials of biologic therapies for
moderate to severe psoriasis have produced promising results. But the medicines
are expensive, and long-term effects are not known. Biologics may increase the
long-term risk of cancer or infections.12, 4, 5
What To Think About