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Psoriatic Arthritis (cont.)

Systemic Psoriatic Arthritis Medications

Systemic medications (those taken by mouth or injection)

  • Psoralens: Methoxsalen (Oxsoralen-Ultra) and trioxsalen (Trisoralen) are commonly prescribed drugs called psoralens. Psoralens make the skin more sensitive to light. These drugs have no effect unless carefully combined with ultraviolet light therapy. This therapy, called PUVA, uses a psoralen drug with ultraviolet A (UV-A) light to treat psoriasis. This treatment is used when psoriasis is severe or when it covers a large area of the skin. Psoralens are taken by mouth several hours before PUVA therapy or sunlight exposure. They are also available as creams, lotions, or in bath soaks. More than 85% of patients report relief of disease symptoms with 20 to 30 treatments. Therapy usually is given two to three times per week on an outpatient basis, with maintenance treatments every two to four weeks until remission. Adverse effects of PUVA therapy include nausea, itching, and burning. These drugs cause sensitivity to sunlight, risk of sunburn, skin cancer, and cataracts.
  • Methotrexate (Rheumatrex): This drug is used to treat plaque psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. It suppresses the immune system and slows the production of skin cells. Methotrexate is taken by mouth (tablet) or as an injection once per week. Women who are planning to become pregnant or who are pregnant should not take this drug. The doctor will order blood tests to check the blood cell count and kidney and liver function on a regular basis while on this medicine.
  • Etanercept (Enbrel): This is the first biologic drug approved for treating psoriatic arthritis. It is a manmade protein that works with the immune system to reduce inflammation. Etanercept is given as an injection. The drug can be injected at home. Rotate the site of injection (thigh, upper arm, abdomen). Do not inject into bruised, hard, or tender skin. Enbrel affects the immune system and individuals with significant infections are not to take this drug. It is rarely associated with heart failure.
  • Adalimumab (Humira): The FDA approved this drug in 2005 for reducing symptoms of active arthritis in psoriatic arthritis. It is self-administered as an injection every two weeks. Individuals with active infections are not able to take this drug. It suppresses the immune system. It is rarely associated with heart failure.
  • Infliximab (Remicade): This drug was also approved in 2005 for psoriatic arthritis. The drug must be given as a two-hour intravenous (into the vein, IV) infusion. Initially, the drug is given three times within six weeks, and then it may be administered every eight weeks. Side effects are similar to adalimumab and etanercept. It suppresses the immune system and individuals with significant infections are not to take this drug. It is rarely associated with heart failure.
  • Cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral): This drug suppresses the immune system and slows the production of skin cells. Cyclosporine is taken by mouth once a day. The doctor will order tests to check your kidney and liver function and levels of cyclosporine in your blood while you are on this medicine. Cyclosporine may increase the risk of infection or lymphoma, and it may cause high blood pressure.
  • Alefacept (Amevive): In 2003, the FDA approved this drug for the treatment of psoriasis. It suppresses the immune system to slow down the production of skin cells. Alefacept is given as an injection once per week. Women who become pregnant while taking alefacept should be enrolled in the manufacturer's pregnancy registry by calling 866-263-8483. Alefacept may increase the risk of malignancy or infection, may cause allergy or swelling of the throat or tongue, and may cause a hard lump, inflammation, or bleeding at the injection site.
  • Ustekinumab (Stelara): This injectable biologic medication treats severe plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis with or without methotrexate. There is an increase risk of infections while taking ustekinumab.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/2/2013

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In 1964, the American Rheumatism Association listed psoriatic arthritis as a clinical entity.

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