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How to make the most of your time with psoriasis patients



In the clinical experience of George Han, MD, PhD, treatment of psoriasis currently is often taxing for patients, with wait times to see a dermatologist exceeding 30 days in many markets and patients who present to him having cycled through many providers seeking relief from their disease.

“They come in with bags of topical products to show you what they’ve tried,” Dr. Han, associate professor of dermatology at Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y., said during the ODAC Dermatology, Aesthetic & Surgical Conference. “And you’re supposed to see this patient, talk to them, and counsel them in about 10 minutes. How do you make time to conduct an efficient psoriasis visit?”

George Han, MD, PhD, chief of teledermatology in the department of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and system medical director for dermatology at Mount Sinai Health System, New York.

Dr. George Han

Patients have a long-term battle to get clear, and spending a little longer on the initial visit “pays a lot of dividends,” he said. “Some of these patients are the most thankful patients in our practices, and it truly is gratifying” to see how much they can improve.

Questions about diet

Dr. Han said that psoriasis patients often ask him if, what, or how much they’re eating affects their disease. “But how do you counsel patients about diet when we’re not dietitians? We can at least give some guidance based on available data.”

He referred to a nationwide study of psoriasis patient-reported outcomes and dietary behaviors, which found that the percentage of patients who reported skin improvement was greatest after reducing intake of alcohol (53.8%); gluten (53.4%); and nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers (52.1%); and after adding fish oil/omega-3 (44.6%), vegetables (42.5%), and oral vitamin D (41%). He noted that there is a threefold increased incidence of celiac disease in patients with psoriasis.

As for nightshade vegetables, intake leads to increased alkaloids, “which have been known to worsen bowel inflammation such as in IBD [inflammatory bowel disease], but there is a lack of controlled trials examining this in the overall psoriasis population,” Dr. Han said. The Mediterranean diet, he added, “is sensible, and adding olive oil to your diet seems to have a positive effect on ... PASI, while fish oil seems to reduce C-reactive protein.” The data on the effect of vitamin D supplements are mixed, he said.

A separate randomized study evaluated the impact of weight loss in overweight or obese patients with psoriasis, who had not achieved clearance after 4 weeks of systemic treatment. Significantly more of those in the dietary intervention arm reached the weight loss goal of 5% at 20 weeks, and patients in this arm had a median reduction in the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) score of almost 50%, compared with almost 26% among those without an active dietary intervention.

Joint pain, PsA

For psoriasis patients who complain of joint pain, he recommends administering quick measures like the five-question Psoriasis Epidemiology Screening Test (PEST) to screen for psoriatic arthritis (PsA), which is available on the National Psoriasis Foundation web site. “I ask patients about swollen, tender joints – specifically hands, wrists, ankles, feet, and toes,” Dr. Han said. Joint stiffness in the morning is a “concerning finding,” which is “more indicative of psoriatic arthritis than vague knee or back pain that worsens with use. If you have a younger patient with back pain who has a reduced ability to flex their spine, think axial disease.”

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)–alpha inhibitors are considered first- and second-line treatment for PsA, but interleukin (IL)–17 inhibitors are generally considered just as effective overall. “The IL-23 inhibitors have mixed signals,” said Dr. Han, who is also on the NPF’s medical board. “We know that guselkumab is effective against psoriatic arthritis, but there is no inhibition of joint progression at the approved dosage on the label – though it was pretty close.”

Risankizumab (Skyrizi), an IL-23 inhibitor, was approved in January 2022 for adults with PsA and while the American College of Rheumatology response data “look reasonably good, the results for inhibition of radiographic progression are quite far off and it’s not in the label,” he said. Tildrakizumab (Ilumya), an IL-23 inhibitor, “looks impressive in phase 2b trials. It will be interesting to see if there is differentiation between the IL-23 agents in treating joint disease going forward.”

Dr. Han considers biologic therapy a good option for patients with questionable joint involvement or very limited joint disease. “If the patient has some evidence of PsA, as long as it’s a medication that has approval for that, I’m OK with starting it,” he said. “However, for patients whose joint pain dominates over the skin, or [who] have severe joint disease at presentation, I would prioritize the TNF-alpha inhibitors and IL-17s and refer them to rheumatology for shared management.”


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