Seven million Americans are affected by psoriasis. It is an autoimmune disease where the skin multiplies many times faster than the average person's skin. A new medication recently been approved by the FDA may nearly clear psoriasis for those who have some of the most severe forms.
There isn't much Robert Flannigan says he doesn't like to read. "Now that I'm retired, I retired the other May, I'm going through maybe two books a week," he says. With retirement, Flannigan no longer has to worry about going to work, which was once a difficult task. "I couldn't hardly walk with these fissures because the skin gets calloused, and it splits," he says.
Flannigan has been in several clinical trials to treat his psoriasis. The one therapy that worked for him was Raptiva. He says, "I probably had about a 75-percent improvement in my skin surface."
Dermatologist Mark Lebwohl, M.D., of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, says more than half of the 600 patients in a recent trial had a 75-percent improvement in skin scaling, redness, and thickness of lesions. Only 5 percent on placebo had the same result.
Dr. Lebwohl says it was a major improvement. "A patient who achieves 50-percent improvement often is very satisfied." And for those who have progressive psoriasis and don't mind self-injections, Dr. Lebwohl says Raptiva is a good option and more are on the way.
"We're delighted that we have quite a number of new drugs coming along that appear to work well for psoriasis but are safer than many of the older drugs that we had," he says.
Flannigan is now 80-percent clear. "People at work, which I didn't notice sometimes my hands were even getting better and my arms. They said, 'Boy, you look really great! Your face is clearing up. Your hands are clearing up,'" he says.
Dr. Lebwohl says side effects like muscle aches, fevers and chills may occur with the first injection. So far, studies show if Raptiva treatments stop abruptly, patients can have a rebound or a worsening of their psoriasis. It comes back very quickly and can come back badly.
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