Immunotherapy and you

A 1998 survey of the National Psoriasis Foundation showed that only 26% of members were satisfied with their current psoriasis treatment. These numbers highlight a need for alternative treatments, and one of the treatment areas currently being researched is that of immunotherapy.

Psoriasis is a condition that involves problems with the healthy functioning of the immune system. Accordingly, researchers have evaluated treatments that specifically target the immune system. This type of treatment is called immunotherapy. Two such medications now used to treat severe psoriasis are cyclosporine and methotrexate. Typically, cyclosporine and methotrexate are recommended when psoriasis has not responded to treatment with topical (skin-applied) medications such as ointments or creams.

While cyclosporine and methotrexate can help clear psoriasis lesions, these medications can cause a variety of side effects. Some side effects can cause serious problems and, therefore, people using these medications must be monitored regularly by their doctors.

Current research focuses on medications that have fewer side effects, such as those that focus on interupting certain immune responses present in psoriasis rather than medications that target the entire immune system. The hope is that these drugs, called biologics, will offer psoriasis relief while not causing further problems. These medications include alefacept, etanercept, infliximab, and adalimumab. While these medications are at differing stages of approval for use, experts remain "cautiously optimistic" that these drugs will prove safer than those currently available.

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