If you are suffering from psoriasis, you may have tried several methods to manage and treat flare-ups over the years. When it comes to treatment, there is no one solution that works for everyone – all immune systems react differently to medications. Traditional psoriasis treatments include topical creams, corticosteroids, immunosuppressant drugs like methotrexate or cyclosporine, and phototherapy. For someone with mild-moderate psoriasis, these treatments are generally effective at controlling inflammation and irritation from flare-ups.
However, if you are suffering from moderate-severe psoriasis, the treatments listed above may not manage your symptoms as well, or they may become less effective over time. Today, many dermatologists are prescribing a more aggressive type of drug that has proven to be very effective at controlling inflammation in people with moderate-severe cases of psoriasis – it’s called a biologic drug or biologics. If you’ve heard of biologics, you may not know exactly what the term means or how they can help treat psoriasis.
We’re here to help answer your common questions about how biologics work.
What Are Biologics?
Biologics are protein-based medications developed from living cells. The cells are genetically altered in a laboratory to make specific proteins. Biologics function by blocking or destroying other proteins in the body that are responsible for creating inflammatory reactions. Biologics can help stop the inflammatory cycle that characterizes psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. In turn, less inflammation can help reduce symptoms and even slow the progression of the condition.
Biologics only target the cells and proteins in the immune system that overreact during psoriasis flare-ups. This attack differs from drugs like methotrexate and cyclosporine, which suppress the entire immune system.
Biologics are administered via injection or an IV. Dosage administration can be anywhere from twice-weekly injections to injections given 12 weeks apart. The frequency is dependent on the specific drug you are prescribed.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Biologics?
Biologics should not be prescribed for everyone. If you have mild-moderate psoriasis that is well-managed with your current medications, there is no need to switch to a biologic drug.
Biologics should be considered for the following cases:
- You have moderate-severe psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis that is not responding well to traditional treatments.
- You have intolerable side effects from your current medications. Strong drugs like immunosuppressants may cause gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- You have mild-moderate psoriasis, but it affects your daily life. If you have painful plaques on your palms, soles, face, or genitals, they may impair your ability to perform daily activities.
Your dermatologist will evaluate the total surface body area that is covered by plaques, whether you have psoriatic arthritis, and how difficult your form of psoriasis is to treat.
What Are the Risks?
Like all medications, biologic drugs come with risks. Biologics lower your body’s immune system response, which increases the chance that you will develop infections. You may also experience pain, redness, or irritation at the injection site. Some people report headaches as another side effect.
Biologics are not recommended if you have a compromised immune system, an active infection, or if you’ve recently received a live vaccine. Your dermatologist will perform blood work and a tuberculosis screening before starting you on biologics. You’ll also need to let your dermatologist know your vaccine history and if you need any upcoming vaccines. Biologics are also not recommended if you are nursing or pregnant.
Are Biologics an Effective Treatment for Psoriasis?
Biologics are a more targeted, aggressive approach to treating psoriasis, and they’ve been proven to be very effective for people with moderate-severe psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Currently, there are twelve FDA-approved biologic drugs to treat psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, or both.
Your dermatologist may prescribe biologics in combination with traditional treatment methods. This may increase the overall effectiveness of your treatment plan. Biologics work best when you take them continuously, over a long time period. Like other drugs that affect the immune system, you may have to try multiple biologics before finding one that works for you.
If you have psoriasis, reach out to Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers. Our medical professionals can answer any questions you have about the use of biologics to treat psoriasis. We will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan to best manage your symptoms and flare-ups. Contact one of our ten office locations today to schedule your first consultation.