Learn What Pharmacists Need to Know About Psoriasis Medications ::

Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects a person’s skin. It is a fairly common condition characterized by raised, red, scaly patches on the skin. The condition sometimes causes complications like arthritis, metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular problems.


There are four different ways the condition is treated – by topical applications, phototherapy, biologic drugs, and systemic medications.


This is a treatment that involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light. It is performed by a dermatologist and is most effective for patients who only have mild or moderate cases of psoriasis.

Topical Applications

These medications are available both over the counter and by prescription and are also intended for people who have mild to moderate levels. One example of these topical drugs is salicylic acid, which is available over the counter. It works to help soften and remove the scaly skin and plaques.

Coal tar is another topical application used for the condition. It comes in shampoo form, as well as creams and oils. However, it can cause skin irritation and should be avoided by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Moisturizers that have an ointment base appear to work better against psoriasis than creams or lotions. The best time to apply the moisturizers is immediately after a shower or bath because they are absorbed better.

Topical treatments that require a prescription include vitamin D-based drugs such as calcipotriene (Dovonex) and calcitriol (Vectical).

The most common treatment for mild to moderate cases of psoriasis is topical corticosteroids. This treatment, however, has several drawbacks – it can cause a thinning of the skin, and its effectiveness is reduced the longer it is used.

Systemic Medications

There is a range of systemic medications available for the more severe forms of the condition. These are generally reserved for people who are not responding to topical applications.

The drugs in this category include acitretin (Soriatane), cyclosporine, methotrexate, apremilast (Otezla), and tofacitinib (Xeljanz). Each of these drugs, however, does have side effects that range from ailments like nausea and vomiting to more severe conditions like kidney problems and hypertension.

Biologic Medications

The biologic drugs work on a specific function of the immune system. They are administered by injection or intravenous infusion.

These medications include certolizumab pegol (Cimzia), secukinumab (Cosentyx), etanercept (Enbrel), adalimumab (Humira), infliximab (Remicade), and brodalumab (Siliq). They can increase the risk of infection.

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