Saturday, January 26, 2013

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.


Most of us in our youth sang this song and never imagined that the idea that we might need 5 pound bag of sugar to take all our pills one spoon at a time.  Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis have come a long way in the last 5 to 10 years in respect to pharmaceutical treatments.  We still are a long way from knowing what causes either disease or what actually causes us to be triggered to have them, but we are making strides in the right direction to finding therapies that will give relief.  I get asked a lot of questions about treatments available, and on the message board on online communities about Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis medication questions are probably 60% of the inquiries.

As my life is at a bit of a standstill in respect to my medical treatments I thought I might go through the pharmaceutical options available as of today. I will make a list of links at the bottom for resources as to where I found this information so you can research them further.

Prescription Topical Steroids: These range in strength from class 1 (weakest) to class 7 (strongest). You can find a list of currently used steroids in their class levels HERE.  This is usually the first line of pharmaceutical attempts to treat psoriasis.  These should be used sparingly only on the affected areas of skin.  One of the potential and common side effects of long term use of topical steroids is that the skin in the surrounding area will thin.

Tar treatments:  Many of these treatments can be purchased without a prescription, but some especially for the scalp are prescription strength.  Tar is one of the oldest treatments for Psoriasis.  In prescription strength formulas it is often combined with salicylic acid.  These treatments can be quite effective for many, but they can smell bad and stain clothing and skin.  OTC(over the counter) treatments are fairly readily available in most pharmacies and I've seen several on Amazon.

NSAIDs: Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs. These come in both OTC and prescription.  Generally they are advised regularly for Psoriatic Arthritis patients, but current research shows that general inflammation is predominant in all Psoriatic patients so the prescribing of these may become a common thread for Psoriasis patients. OTC versions of these include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve).  Some of these also come in prescription strength.  The National Psoriasis Foundation has a current list of commonly used NSAIDs  HERE.  One thing to keep in mind is that many of these medications can be very hard on the stomach, and can cause liver damage if taken in excess.

DMARDs: Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs. These medicines are usually only looked at if the above treatments are failing or not getting the level of improvement that your Dermatologist or Rheumatologist feels is appropriate.  From reading message boards and talking to other Psoriatic patients it seems that many are jumping straight into the DMARD pool.  This may be because it is  being found in studies that early treatment for Psoriatic Arthritis can be imperative in extending quality of life in patients.  This class of medications includes Methotrexate (MTX), Leflunomide (Arava),  Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine), Sulfasalazine and, Ciclosporin. These drugs are used to reduce inflammation and damper the immune system so that it does not continue to attack the body as a foreign invader.

TNF Inhibitors: These drugs are the newest in the arsenal of medications doctors are using to fight Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis.  Enbrel  (Etanercept), Humira  (Adalimumab), and Remicade (Infliximab) are currently approved in the United States for both Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis therapies. Stelara  (Ustekinumab) is only approved for Psoriasis, but is in Phase III studies for approval for Psoriatic Arthritis.  Simponi  (Golimumab) is only approved for Psoriatic Arthritis currently.  These medicines are often used in conjunction with DMARDs, but are generally only approved after use of at least 1 DMARD has failed.  This class of medication is used to inhibit the TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor).  The TNF is believed to be a primary cause of inflammation in many auto immune diseases.  In patients with Psoriasis it has been found that active skin cells are found to have elevated levels of TNF so these medications are used in patients with only Psoriasis to limit those levels.  These medications also act as immune suppressors.

Narcotic Pain Medications:  These are used frequently especially for Psoriatic Arthritis patients.  Many are a combination of a NSAID and a narcotic element (Vicodin and Norco).  Though Narcotic therapies have gotten a lot of negative press in the recent years because of addiction issues, working with your specialist or a pain management specialist to use these TOOLS to reduce your pain to functioning levels is an option.

I know all this is very overwhelming, especially for someone who is newly diagnosed with either or both of these diseases.  I will do some follow up blogs to give more detailed information on the DMARDs and TNF inhibitors, but I wanted to give some basic information to people who have no idea where to start in their research of treatments available.  These are only the pharmaceutical treatments.  I will discuss homeopathic and naturalistic treatments at another time.

Finally I want to say I am in no way a medical professional.  I am offering this information from my personal experience with both Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis and the research I have done over the years in my journey trying to find relief.  Be sure to discuss your treatment options with your specialist.  Always remember you will always be your strongest (and sometimes only) advocate for your health.  Be informed, be aware, and be assertive!

Links to more info

  1. National Psoriasis Foundation
  2. Web MD
  3. American College of Rheumatology
  4. Drugs.com