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New Treatment for Psoriasis Emerges

Posted: August 27, 2008

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"It's really changed the way we can treat psoriasis," said Lawrence Green, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. "It really has made life much more tolerable for patients."

Psoriasis occurs when the body's immune system is somehow mistakenly triggered, which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Normal skin cells mature and fall off the body in 28 to 30 days. A psoriatic skin cell takes just three to four days to mature and move to the surface, and, instead of falling off, the cells pile up and form lesions. According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis.

Biologics are made from human or animal proteins, and they treat psoriasis by going after the overactive immune cells causing the disease. "They are based on natural processes," Green said. "They're similar to chemicals or compounds we already have in our system. They help lessen immune responses. They help soak up or diminish the extra inflammatory compounds."

Currently, five biologics are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of psoriasis, and three of those five are approved for psoriatic arthritis. Biologics are effective, and they also are more affordable than ultraviolet therapy, the other leading treatment for dealing with medium-to-severe cases of psoriasis, according to dermatologists.

Ultraviolet light kills the immune cells in the skin that are causing the problem, Cather said. The problem is, a person must come in three to five times a week for treatment, racking up hundreds of dollars in co-payments.