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American Academy of Dermatology Issues New Guidelines for the Management of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

Dermatologists hopeful that more patients will benefit from increased

understanding of therapies for psoriasis

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., May 21 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) has released new guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis based on an extensive analysis of the highest-quality scientific studies on these serious conditions. An estimated 6-7 million Americans are affected by psoriasis, and the presence of psoriatic arthritis in the general U.S. population has been estimated to affect between 300,000 and 750,000 individuals.

Published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the new psoriasis and psoriatic guidelines present the latest recommendations for treating patients with mild to severe cases of these conditions. "As a result of the impartial analysis of the most current research, physicians now have evidence-based guidelines which will help enhance the quality of care for patients and ultimately their safety," said dermatologist, C. William Hanke, MD, FAAD, president of the Academy. "The guidelines for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, which focus on the use of biologics, are the first phase of the Academy's efforts. The Academy is currently working on the second phase of these guidelines which will provide evidence-based advice for the management of psoriasis with topical therapies, ultraviolet light therapy, and systemic non-biologic therapies for psoriasis."

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition which usually begins before the age of 35 and is characterized by thick, red, scaly patches that itch and bleed. Although it is a genetic disease, it is not completely understood how it is inherited. However, there are at least eight chromosomes to date that researchers have identified as being linked to the genetic transmission of the disease. In addition, a number of environmental factors play an important role in the development of psoriasis, including drugs, skin trauma, infection and stress.

A related condition, psoriatic arthritis is a chronic disease characterized by stiffness, pain, swelling and tenderness of the joints, surrounding ligaments and tendons. Nearly 85 percent of psoriatic arthritis patients develop psoriasis before psoriatic arthritis. It generally takes about seven to 10 years for psoriasis patients to develop psoriatic arthritis. Although it can develop at any time, psoriatic arthritis most commonly strikes patients between the ages of 30 and 50.

General Recommendations

Based on a comprehensive examination of the most recent studies on therapies for psoriasis, the Academy's guidelines outline the benefits and limitations of topical and systemic therapies currently available to treat psoriasis.

According to the guidelines, topical treatments are appropriate for patients who are good candidates for localized therapy, but in many cases they should not be used exclusively to treat psoriasis if patients could benefit from a combination of systemic and/or phototherapy treatments. When evaluating a patient, a dermatologist will determine if traditional systemic treatments, [methotrexate, cyclosporine (CyA) and oral retinoids] phototherapy, or the newer biologic agents are safe and effective for each individual.

Recommendations for Biologics

With the recent introduction of biologic therapies to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, dermatologists have more options available to find an appropriate treatment regimen to manage these conditions. Given by injection or infusion, biologics are systemic medications that pinpoint precise immune responses involved with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. They work, in part, by acting as a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor to slow the inflammatory response. Studies confirm that the chronic physical symptoms that plague patients with moderate to severe psoriasis can be successfully alleviated with biologics, and they also are credited with helping improve a patient's quality of life.

Research shows that the activation of T-cells, a type of white blood cell, is the key immune system trigger in the development of psoriasis. Once activated, these cells release cytokines -- chemicals used by the immune system to communicate messages. In psoriasis patients, these cytokines signal skin cells to reproduce and mature at an accelerated rate, which cause other reactions that lead to the formation of psoriatic lesions. Biologics are designed to target the precise immune responses involved with psoriasis, thereby controlling the condition and reducing the risk of future flare-ups.

Currently, five biologic agents are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of psoriasis and three of these five are approved for psoriatic arthritis. Because biologic therapies target the immune system, the guidelines stress that it is important to use all approaches to prevent infection, including vaccinations. However, once biologic therapy has begun, patients should avoid vaccinations with live vaccines under all circumstances, including live-attenuated vaccines -- such as intra-nasal influenza and the herpes zoster vaccine and consult their dermatologist before receiving a vaccination of any kind. Patients also need to be periodically re-evaluated by their dermatologist for the development of new symptoms, including infections and potential cancers.

"Regardless of the therapy that is used to treat psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, patients need to be in constant contact with their dermatologists to report any unusual side effects or fluctuations in their condition that may require an adjustment in their medications or indicate the onset of psoriatic arthritis or another secondary medical condition," said Dr. Hanke. "These guidelines should help further the understanding of the current psoriasis therapies and help enhance the overall health and quality of life of patients."

For more information on psoriasis, go to the PsoriasisNet section of, a Web site developed by dermatologists that provides patients with up-to-date information on the treatment and management of disorders of the skin, hair and nails.

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 15,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or

Editor's Note: A copy of the guidelines can be accessed through the Academy's Web site at

SOURCE American Academy of Dermatology
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