One study tallied the average lifetime out-of-pocket cost to treat psoriasis symptoms and related emotional health at $11,498. Those price tags likely don't include biologics, one of the most expensive -- and effective- - treatments for severe psoriasis. Other systemic medications can be pricey, too.
Having health insurance can help with costs of medications and office visits. A National Psoriasis Foundation survey reports that about 89% of people with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis patients have health insurance. More than half of them spent more than $2,400 per year in out-of-pocket costs to treat the disease. One report finds out-of-pocket costs were $706 over 6 months. Another review found that people paid about $527 each year out of their pockets to treat psoriasis.
It is difficult to give an exact price. But we do know that people with psoriasis tend to have higher health costs each year compared to those who don't. The costs may reach as high as $135 billion annually, based on one estimate.
If you have mild psoriasis, your costs may mostly come from non-urgent care visits. But those with moderate to severe disease may spent the biggest chunk of money on medications, one report found.
The financial and mental price to find relief from psoriasis can be difficult. You’ll need to manage it like anything else in your personal budget.
The following is insight on costs you may expect to treat psoriasis. They are based on research conducted in 2023 and are subject to change.
Your treatment will probably start 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.
The national average cost to see a dermatologist for the first visit is $124. If you have psoriasis, your private health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid may cover some of the bill. Of course, you’ll have to meet a 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.
Disclaimer: Some of these prices listed may cost less depending on your insurance coverage or online coupons. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how to get the best deal, or compare prices online. Some manufacturers may offer savings options. The prices reflected may differ based on how much of the medicine you need and how often you need to take it.
Topical treatments. Corticosteroids come in ointments, creams, lotions, gels, foams, sprays, and shampoos. They are not very expensive for the most part. 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 $5.70 with a coupon. Triamcinolone goes for as low as $5.80. Clobetasol ointment goes for about $24.99.
Vitamin D. Your doctor might recommend synthetic forms of vitamin D to go along with corticosteroids. Calcipotriene (Dovonex, Sorilux) cream is available online for $67.99, and a 30-day supply of calcitriol (Rocaltrol, Vectical) is $9.99
Calcineurin inhibitors. These ointments and creams help relieve inflammation and itching. One of these medications, tacrolimus ointment (Protopic), is available online for $31.66. Another, pimecrolimus (Elidel), costs $63.91.
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 can go up to about $20. Prices vary widely, so shopping around can help you save money.
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. Another estimate says phototherapy could cost about $5,000 over a 3-year span, but that price is directly from the manufacturer and may not take into account insurance. 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. Your doctor will inject these into psoriasis patches. You can find the drug triamcinolone (Kenalog) starting around $17.75 for a 1-milliliter dose. How long the steroid lasts depends on how often you need to use it.
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. How long the doses last depends on how your doctor instructs you to use the medication. Generally, research shows they're very effective in treating moderate to severe psoriasis. Researchers have looked to see if the efficacy is worth the cost. Depending on the drug, it can be. One report says IL-17 inhibitors are most cost-effective.
There are many types of biologics used to treat psoriasis. The price for a unit, depending on the dose, for a few biologics is:
- Brodalumab (Siliq): $1,670.35
- Etanercept (Enbrel): $930.25
- Infliximab (Remicade). $1,239.21 for the brand name drug. The price of the biosimilar is $509.68.
- Risankizumab-rzaa (Skyrizi): $963.01
- Ustekinumab (Stelara): $78.45
One report that looked at 15 psoriasis medications (including biologics) found ustekinumab had the highest cost in its drug category. The out-of-pocket cost for people using Medicare and ustekinumab was $6,950.
Another report covering biologics found that the annual treatment cost for brodalumab was cheapest at $48,782 and ustekinumab cost the most at $87,243.
Biosimilars could offer some financial relief. They're cheaper versions of biologics, similar to how generic drugs are cheaper versions of the brand names. Biologics with a biosimilar counterpart could force prices of the biologics to go down, but that doesn't mean everyone will be able to access the biologics.
It's important to try to find the best medication fit possible to avoid the costs of switching or stopping a drug. One study found that people who stopped taking a biologic or switched to another had a higher economic burden than people who stuck to their first treatment.
Some people look elsewhere than medication for relief from psoriasis. Several products available in drugstores can cost a few dollars. Other brands may cost more.
Alternative treatments include:
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 may 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.
When It's Not Just Psoriasis
Your health care costs can go up if you have another condition along with psoriasis. This additional condition or disease is called comorbidity. It can include a physical disease like diabetes as well as psychological issues like depression.
If you have a disease or condition in addition to psoriasis, one report says you'll pay an additional $22,713 per year. (That can be before insurance kicks in.) Getting treatment for your psoriasis in a timely manner may lower this amount.