Advances in Psoriasis Treatment

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What to Know About Biologics for Psoriasis

  • A Newer Treatment Option
    There are newer treatment options for psoriasis.
    One of the newer treatments for moderate to severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis is a group of medications known as biologics. Biologics are made from proteins produced by living cells in a laboratory. Here's what you should know about these medications and how they may be able to help your psoriasis.

  • How Biologics Work
    Understand how biologics works.
    Unlike systemic drugs that affect your entire immune system, biologics target specific parts of your immune system. Psoriatic biologics block a type of immune cell called a T cell or certain proteins, such as TNF-alpha or interleukins 12 and 23. These cells and proteins lead to the inflammation and overproduction of skin cells seen in psoriasis.

  • Doctor Writing Medical Prescription
    There are several biologic options available.
    Enbrel (etanercept), Humira (adalimumab), Remicade (infliximab), and Simponi (golimumab) are psoriatic drugs that block TNF-alpha. Stelara (ustekinumab) is a biologic that targets and blocks inflammation-producing interleukin 12 and interleukin 23. Cosentyx (secukinumab) and Taltz (Ixekizumab) block interleukin-17A. Otezla (apremilast) blocks the PDE4 enzyme to control inflammation.


  • smiling hospital staff members
    Biologics are meant for tougher cases of psoriasis.
    Biologics are best for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Your doctor may also consider biologics if your psoriasis hasn't responded well to other treatments or if you're having bad side effects from other drugs. TNF-alpha blockers can even help slow the joint damage of psoriatic arthritis.

  • How Biologics Are Given
    Biologics are given by injection or pill.
    Most biologics for the treatment of psoriasis are taken by injection or by intravenous (IV) infusion. Some injections can be given by yourself or a family member, while others may need to be administered by a health care provider at a doctor's office or infusion center. A twice-daily oral tablet called Otezla (apremilast) is FDA-approved for treatment of plaque psoriasis.

  • How Biologics Are Given
    The results may vary.
    How well biologics work for your psoriasis will vary from person to person. Results also depend on the specific medication and dose you're on. Remicade (infliximab) and Humira (adalimumab) tend to work more quickly. You may notice improvement within two weeks. Other biologics, like Enbrel (etanercept), may take four to eight weeks.

  • Common Side Effects
    Get to know the common side effects.
    It's important to discuss possible side effects with your doctor before starting any new medication. Biologics can increase your risk of infection. The most common side effects include respiratory infections, injection site reactions, and flu-like symptoms. Contact your doctor right away if you have fever or cough, or if you notice swelling or a rash around your injection site.

  • Concern for Cancer Risk
    Be aware of the cancer concern.
    There has been some concern about a possible rare side effect of TNF-alpha blocking medications: an increased risk of lymphoma, which is a type of cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded there isn't enough data right now to know if these drugs increase risk of lymphoma in people with psoriasis.

  • Cost of Biologics
    Know the costs of biologics.
    Biologics are costly to research and produce, which makes them expensive medications. Pricing for psoriasis biologics varies widely. In a 2014 report, prices ranged from $6,000 to $54,000 a year. Voluntary enrollment in a psoriasis treatment clinical trial may eliminate the cost of treatment during the course of the study.


  • prescription medical cream coming out of tube
    See if combination treatment is right for you.
    There are many approaches to treating psoriasis. All the biologics currently available can be combined with other treatments such as phototherapy or topical medications. Talk with your doctor about whether using other treatments along with a biologic is right for your psoriasis.

What to Know About Biologics for Psoriasis

About The Author

  1. Cheng J, Feldman SR. The cost of biologics for psoriasis is increasing. Drugs in Context 2014; 3: 212266. doi: 10.7573/ dic.212266. http://www.drugsincontext.com/cost-biologics-psoriasis-increasing/
  2. Ferrándiz C, et. al. Cost-efficacy of adalimumab, etanercept, infliximab and ustekinumab for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 2012;26(6):768-777. 
  3. Smith CH, et al. British Association of Dermatologists’ guidelines for biologic interventions for psoriasis 2009. British Journal of Dermatology. 2009;161:987–1019. 
  4. FDA Drug Safety Communication: UPDATE on Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) blockers and risk for pediatric malignancy. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/ucm278267.htm
  5. Questions and Answers about Psoriasis. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Psoriasis/
  6. Psoriasis: Biologics. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/practicecenter/quality/clinical-guidelines/psoriasis/biologics

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Last Review Date: 2019 Aug 9
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