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7 Facts to Consider About Biologics for Psoriasis

  • By Kristen Stewart
  • Reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD

Biologics can be an effective psoriasis treatment, but they can have some downsides. Review these pros and cons to see if this psoriasis medication is right for you.

Unhappy with your current psoriasis medication? Biologic drugs, which have been used for treating other autoimmune conditions, may offer you another option. But you’ll want to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before you start taking a biologic medication for psoriasis.

“Biologics are engineered proteins taken from human genes,” says Hooman Khorasani, MD, chief of the division of Mohs, reconstructive, and cosmetic surgery in the department of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “These drugs inhibit special components of the immune system that play pivotal roles in fueling inflammation, which is a central feature of moderate to severe psoriasis.”

Biologics as a treatment option for psoriasis is welcome news to many. However, as with any medication, you need to get all the facts before deciding if a biologic drug is right for you. Here are seven facts to consider about biologics for psoriasis:

1. Biologics are injected. Some biologic medications are administered intravenously in a medical setting while others are given with a shot under the skin, which is similar to how people with diabetes inject insulin. You or a family member can learn this technique so you can take your biologic medication in the comfort of your own home.

2. Biologics have different side effects than traditional psoriasis medications. For example, over-the-counter psoriasis treatments, like salicylic acid and coal tar, can cause skin irritations and sunburn. If you’ve experienced significant side effects from traditional types of psoriasis treatments, a biologic medication may be a treatment option for you.

3. Biologics for psoriasis can increase the risk of infection. Because they affect the immune system, biologic medications reduce your resistance to infection. People with a history of tuberculosis, hepatitis B or C, or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) aren’t good candidates for this type of psoriasis treatment.

4. Biologics can be costly. “The annual cost of a biologic can range between $35,000 and $50,000 depending on which drug you’re prescribed,” says Tien Q. Nguyen, MD, a dermatologist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif. However, most people that aren’t taking biologics typically need two or three different drugs plus light treatment and lab tests for monitoring, which, coupled with time missed from work , can add up to a costly expense — and have a less successful outcome, Nguyen adds. If your medical insurance doesn’t cover the bulk of the cost of biologic treatment, many pharmaceutical companies have a hotline you can call to ask about possible economic discounts for their biologic drugs.

5. Biologics don’t have to be an all-or-nothing treatment. For people with psoriasis who don’t get enough relief from one kind of medication alone, it’s possible to combine biologics with other traditional psoriasis treatments or light therapy.

6. Everyone responds differently to biologics. “Just like any medication, biologics often need to be fine-tuned to the individual person,” Dr. Khorasani says. If you don’t respond well to an initial biologic drug, you can work with your doctor to try another option, as there are several types of biologics available for treating psoriasis.

7. Biologics can take time to work . If you decide to try a biologic medication for psoriasis, you’ll need to be patient — it may be two to three months before you see substantial improvement after starting biologic treatment.

With so many things to think about when considering biologics for psoriasis treatment, it’s important to have a discussion with your doctor and learn how each of these facts about biologics may affect you specifically.

Last Updated: 5/23/2014

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