New Hope for Psoriasis Patients

Posted on 28. Jul, 2012 by in General Health Concerns

When the role of the immune system was discovered in the 1960s and 1970s, it led to a lot of new psoriasis treatments. Methotrexate, cyclosporine, and corticosteroids have improved the symptoms of psoriasis for a lot of people. Though for the following decades, majority of psoriasis treatments were stuck in neutral.

But all of those are history, thanks to the latest breakthroughs in researches on psoriasis. There are new psoriasis treatments which are highly effective, but the cost is pretty high and it carries some risks. There are also incoming psoriasis treatments that are about to be approved by the FDA, which gives hope to all people suffering from psoriasis.

Unlike heart disease or cancer, researches on psoriasis don’t make the headlines. Also, research in psoriasis is hamstrung by the human skin’s uniqueness: Experiments on rats, mice, or other animals are not very helpful unlike experiments in other illnesses. Lately, though, the funding in psoriasis research has been doubled by the NIH (National Institutes of Health). Generally speaking, other autoimmune disease researches have gained new information on the immune system. It was found out that some problems in autoimmune diseases are also present in psoriasis. New treatments were brought out of this wider understanding of diseases related to the immune system. These drugs, which are called biologic agents, have launched a modern era of psoriasis treatments.

Drugs that are made from the substances found in living beings or organisms define the term biologic agents. They are lab-produced antibodies or proteins which are injected into the bloodstream or the skin. The altered part of the immune system that pitches in to psoriasis is blocked by these biologic agents.

In general, psoriasis responds to biologic agents by:

  • Directly blocking T-cells (type of white blood cell)
  • Suppressing TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha), a substance that acts as one of the immune system’s main messenger chemicals.
  • Blocking interleukins, also messenger chemicals of the immune system.
  • Psoriasis’ plaques and patches are caused by a non-adaptive interaction between white blood cells and skin cells. By suppressing T-cells or TNF-alpha, or targeting interleukins, biologic agents impede the unhealthy relationship between the two types of cells.
  • The overgrowth of scaly, thick skin and inflammation are reduced.

The FDA approved these biologic agents to treat moderate to severe psoriases:

Alefacept (Amevive) – protein that blocks T-cells

Etanercept (Enbrel) – TNF-alpha blocker

Adalimumab (Humira) – an antibody that blocks TNF-alpha

Infliximab (Remicade) – TNF-alpha blocker

Ustekinumab (Stelara) – human protein against interleukins

Psoriasis responds well to biologic agents: Each of the drugs reduced the activity of psoriasis by 75% in a lot of people, based on clinical trials. Though, these new psoriasis treatments have disadvantages. A person is most likely to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars monthly when using biologic agents for treating psoriasis. There is also a higher risk of complications like infection and cancer, requiring patients to be closely monitored.

Because of the broader understanding of immune system problems, developing drugs to treat psoriasis has somehow been encouraged. A lot of these drugs are still in the early testing stages. Some are almost finished with the clinical trials and are waiting for FDA approval.


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