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Effective Treatments for Psoriasis

Medically reviewed by George T. Krucik, MD, MBA on May 24, 2016Written by Adrienne Santos-Longhurst on December 5, 2014


The National Psoriasis Foundation found that more than half of the 5,600 people polled in a 2013 survey were not satisfied with their psoriasis management. These results showed that people with psoriasis needed new, more effective treatments. Fortunately, many treatments have been created since then.

Oral treatment

A newer group of oral treatments can bring relief to people with psoriasis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an oral drug for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in September of 2014. This drug was called apremilast (Otezla).

Otezla works by blocking the immune response that causes inflammation. This relieves joint pain and swelling for people with psoriatic arthritis. It also reduces redness and scaling. This drug can be taken in combination with other treatments.


Biologics are protein-based drugs made from living cells. They’re given by injection or intravenous (IV) infusion. Biologics work by blocking some functions of the immune system. The immune system plays a major role in how psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis develop.

The FDA has approved several biologics for treating psoriasis in the past decade. These drugs include:

Newer biologic drugs that target the protein interleukin-17A (IL-17A) have shown amazing results. Ixekizumab was approved in March 2016. It was especially promising in clinical trials. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, one-third of people had clear skin after just three months of using the drug.

Other promising psoriasis drugs that target IL-17 have recently been approved. They include brodalumab and secukinumab.

Doctors prescribe biologics to people with moderate to severe psoriasis. They’re used in people who haven’t responded to other treatments or who can’t use other treatments because of side effects. Biologics aren’t recommended for people with a weak immune system or an infection. Your doctor will test you for tuberculosis and other infections before you start a biologic drug.

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Topical treatments

Many topical treatments for psoriasis have become available within the past decade. Topical treatments are drugs you apply to your skin. Usually, they’re the first line of treatment for psoriasis. They’re often used with oral drugs or biologics. Topical drugs are given to people with moderate to severe psoriasis.

Topical treatments for psoriasis are available as prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. OTC topical treatments relieve symptoms including itching and scaling. They contain ingredients that help keep your skin moisturized. These include:

  • aloe vera
  • jojoba
  • capsaicin
  • zinc

Prescription topical treatments often include steroids. They work by reducing inflammation and redness.

Talk to your doctor

Most people with psoriasis benefit from using a combination of treatments. One person’s results may be different from another’s. Speak with your doctor about your options. Together, you and your doctor can find the best course of treatment for you.

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