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The Cost of Psoriasis

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on June 24, 2021

There’s no cure for psoriasis, but ointments, creams, moisturizers, and other medications can relieve your symptoms. They aren’t always cheap though. One study tallied the average lifetime cost to treat psoriasis symptoms and related emotional health at $11,498. And that price tag likely doesn’t include biologics, one of the most expensive treatments for severe psoriasis.

The cost of psoriasis relief seems to be a stealth condition all its own. You’ll need to manage it like anything else in your personal budget.

Doctor Visits

Your treatment starts with a visit to a dermatologist. If your psoriasis is relatively calm, you may need to see the doctor only twice a year. But if symptoms return, and you take medication that requires close supervision, you may need to check in as often as every 6 to 12 weeks.

An office visit to a dermatologist usually costs $150 to $200 in the U.S. If you have psoriasis, your private health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid should cover the bill. Of course, you’ll have to meet your deductible and make any required copayments.

The Cost to Treat Mild Psoriasis

But doctor visits aren’t what gradually hikes the cost of psoriasis care. Your treatment routine is. If rashes and itching are mild, your doctor may start you on one or more creams, ointments, medications, moisturizers, or other products.

Topical treatments. Corticosteroids come in ointments, creams, lotions, gels, foams, sprays, and shampoos. They are not very expensive. That’s a good thing since you will apply them daily for a while. A wide range of topical treatments is available from mild hydrocortisone ointment to somewhat stronger products like clobetasol (Temovate) and triamcinolone acetonide (Trianex).

You can find hydrocortisone cream online for as little as $5.32 with a coupon (or $1.60 with a typical 30% health insurance copay). Triamcinolone goes for as low as $3.18 (95 cents copay). Clobetasol ointment goes for about $21.26 ($6.38).

Vitamin D. Your doctor might recommend synthetic forms of vitamin D to go along with corticosteroids. Calcipotriene (Dovonex, Sorilux) is available online for $69.99 ($21 copay) and calcitriol (Rocaltrol, Vectical) for $13.10 ($3.93).

Retinoids. These vitamin A-derived creams, gels, and liquids help restore skin. One such medication is tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac). You can find it online for $70.35 ($21.11 copay).

Calcineurin inhibitors. These ointments and creams help relieve inflammation and itching. One of these medications, tacrolimus ointment (Protopic), is available online for $37.83 ($11.35 copay). Another, pimecrolimus (Elidel), costs quite a bit more at $78 ($23.40).

Shampoos and scalp creams. Over-the-counter products that contain tar or salicylic acid can reduce scaling and itching in your scalp. Shampoos for sale online go for $5.20 to $7 per bottle.

Anthralin. This type of cream slows the speedy skin cell growth that causes psoriasis. It also removes scales. Unfortunately, it is quite expensive. The lowest online price for dithranol (Drithocreme HP, Zithranol) is $209.15 ($62.75 copay).

The Cost of More Severe Psoriasis

Let’s say your psoriasis is moderate to severe instead. Rather than start with medication, your doctor might suggest brief, daily exposure to sunlight. Or you might get a prescription for phototherapy -- regular use of ultraviolet (UV) light -- in a doctor’s office or at home with a portable unit. As with medication, light therapy can help relieve skin inflammation and slow the growth of skin cells.

The more phototherapy sessions you need, the higher your cost. Sometimes, people need 20 to 36 sessions over several weeks to get their symptoms under control. Research online found sessions priced at around $65 each, so your phototherapy regimen could cost $1,300 to $2,340. Most private insurance, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, covers in-office phototherapy that is “medically necessary.” But you will have to pick up the copay and meet your deductible first. Insurance usually does not cover in-home phototherapy, and a portable unit can cost $3,000 to $6,000.

Along with light therapy, your doctor may want you to take pills or injectable drugs. These medications may include:

Steroids. You inject these into psoriasis patches. You can find the drug triamcinolone (Kenalog) online for around $71 ($21.30 copay). How long the steroid lasts depends on how often you need to use it.

Retinoids. These are vitamin A-based pills that slow production of skin cells. The online price for one retinoid, acitretin (Soriatane), is $90.50 ($27.15 copay) for a month’s supply.

Methotrexate (Trexall). You take this once a week if you have really severe psoriasis. Online, a month’s supply runs $16.75 ($5.03 copay).

Cyclosporine (Neoral). This medication, which comes in capsule and liquid forms, suppresses your immune system to treat difficult psoriasis. You can find 30 days’ worth online for $29.60 ($8.88 copay).

Biologics. Like cyclosporine, these injectable medications interact with the immune system to treat psoriasis. Biologics are expensive, and health insurance doesn’t always cover them. Two examples are etanercept (Enbrel) and infliximab (Remicade). Even the “cheap” online prices for either are around $6,000 ($1,800 copay). This is for four doses. How long those doses last depends on how your doctor instructs you to use the medication.

Alternative Remedies

Some people look elsewhere than medication for relief from red and itchy skin. Several products available in drugstores could help with psoriasis.

Aloe extract creams (priced anywhere from $3 to $50) and fish oil ($11 to $23) may help relieve symptoms. Some people with psoriasis swear by colloidal oatmeal or Epsom salt baths that cost no more than $2 to $6.

Impacts on Mental and Career Health

If controlling your psoriasis is a struggle, you may develop mental health troubles like depression or anxiety. In the U.S., a therapy session typically costs $100 to $200. Check whether your insurance plan covers any or all of the cost. Your doctor may also prescribe medication for your mental health. Insurance should cover this. Your out-of-pocket cost will depend on your diagnosis and the exact prescription.

Psoriasis also can cost time at work. In one study, one-fifth of people with psoriasis had taken sick leave to deal with their condition. Depending on your benefits at work and how much sick leave you need, this might mean you should keep a little savings socked away for time off.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Psoriasis: Symptoms and Causes,” “Psoriasis: Diagnosis and Treatment.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Psoriasis.”

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: “RETINOIDS, TOPICAL.”

Dermatology Times: “Breaking down the cost of psoriasis biologics.”

American Journal of Pharmacy Benefits: “Psoriasis Treatment Cost Comparison: Biologics Versus Home Phototherapy.”

JAMA Dermatology: “Economic Burden of Psoriasis in the United States: A Systematic Review,” “Evaluating the economic burden of psoriasis in the United States.”

Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego: “Topical Calcineurin Inhibitors.”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Phototherapy.”

Dermatology and Therapy (Heidelberg): “The Patient’s Guide to Psoriasis Treatment. Part 1: UVB Phototherapy.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina: “Light Therapy for Dermatologic Conditions.”

CDC: “What is Psoriasis?”

BMC Health Services Research: “How much of the productivity losses among psoriasis patients are due to psoriasis.”

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