August 10, 2020
Topical agents, alternative medicine, and disease severity assessment are the subjects of the latest updated set of guidelines for the management and treatment of psoriasis issued jointly by the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Psoriasis Foundation.
The guidelines, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, focus on treatment for adults, and follow the release of other AAD-NPF guidelines on biologics for psoriasis, psoriasis-related comorbidities, pediatric psoriasis, and phototherapy in 2019, and earlier this year, guidelines for systemic nonbiologic treatments. The latest guidelines' section on topical treatment outlines evidence for the efficacy, effectiveness, and adverse events related to topical steroids, topical tacrolimus and pimecrolimus, vitamin D analogues, tazarotene, moisturizers, salicylic acid, anthralin, coal tar, combinations with biologic agents, and combinations with nonbiologic treatments (methotrexate, cyclosporine, acitretin, and apremilast).
The guidelines noted the "key role" of topical corticosteroids in treating psoriasis "especially for localized disease," and include a review of the data on low-, moderate-, high-, and ultrahigh-potency topical steroids for psoriasis.
In general, all topical steroids can be used in combination with biologics, according to the guidelines, but the strongest recommendations based on the latest evidence include the addition of an ultra-high potency topical corticosteroid to standard dose etanercept for 12 weeks. Currently, 11 biologics are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of psoriasis.
In addition, "while not FDA approved for psoriasis, the topical calcineurin inhibitors tacrolimus and pimecrolimus are often employed in the treatment of psoriasis," can be helpful for "thinner skin such as facial and intertriginous areas," and can be steroid sparing when used for more than 4 weeks, according to the guidelines.
Don't discount the role of patient preferences when choosing topical treatments, the authors noted. "The optimal vehicle choice is the one the patient is mostly likely to use."
The guidelines also address the evidence for effectiveness, and adverse events in the use of several alternative medicines for psoriasis including traditional Chinese medicine, and the herbal therapies aloe vera and St. John's wort, as well as the potential role of dietary supplements including fish oil, vitamin D, turmeric, and zinc in managing psoriasis, and the potential role of a gluten-free diet.
In general, research on the efficacy, effectiveness, and potential adverse effects of these strategies are limited, according to the guidelines, although many patients express interest in supplements and herbal products. For example, "Many patients ask about the overall role of vitamin D in skin health. Rather than adding oral vitamin D supplementation, topical therapy with vitamin D agents is effective for the treatment of psoriasis," the authors noted.
In addition, they noted that mind/body strategies, namely hypnosis and stress reduction or meditation techniques, have been shown to improve symptoms and can be helpful for some patients, but clinical evidence is limited.
The guidelines also addressed methods for assessing disease severity in psoriasis. They recommended using body surface area (BSA) to assess psoriasis severity and patient response to treatment in the clinical setting. However, BSA is a provider assessment tool that "does not take into account location on the body, clinical characteristics of the plaques, symptoms, or quality of life issues," the authors noted. The Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) measures erythema, induration, and scaling and is more suited to assessing psoriasis severity and response to treatment in clinical trials rather than in practice, they said.
Prior AAD guidelines on psoriasis were published more than 10 years ago, and major developments including the availability of new biologic drugs and new data on comorbidities have been recognized in the past decade, working group cochair and author of the guidelines Alan Menter, MD, said in an interview.
The key game-changers from previous guidelines include the full section published on comorbidities plus the development of two new important cytokine classes: three IL-17 drugs and three new IL-23 drugs now available for moderate to severe psoriasis, said Dr. Menter, chairman of the division of dermatology at Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas.
Barriers to implementing the guidelines in practice may occur when "third party payers make the decision on which of the 11 biologic drugs now approved for moderate to severe psoriasis should be used," he noted.
As for next steps in psoriasis studies, "new biomarker research is currently underway," Dr. Menter said. With 11 biologic agents new formally approved by the FDA for moderate to severe psoriasis, the next steps are to determine which drug is likely to be the most appropriate for each individual patient.
Dr. Menter disclosed relationships with multiple companies that develop and manufacture psoriasis therapies, including Abbott Labs, AbbVie, Amgen, Eli Lilly and Company, Galderma USA, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, LEO Pharma US, Menlo Therapeutics, and Novartis. The updated guidelines were designed by a multidisciplinary work group of psoriasis experts including dermatologists, a rheumatologist, a cardiologist, and representatives from a patient advocacy organization.