14.04.2024

Lung drug proved to ease the pain of psoriasis is providing relieve for three quarters of patients

A drug used to treat inflammation of the lungs could help banish severe cases of the skin condition psoriasis. The medicine, called roflumilast, reduces the patches of painful, flaky skin in three-quarters of patients, according to trial results.

Originally tablets, it was redeveloped as a cream that is applied to problem areas to counter phosphodiesterase, an enzyme which can go into overdrive and tell the immune system to attack healthy tissue.

Following successful study results, the treatment has now been approved for use in the US in patients aged nine and over by drug watchdog the FDA.

Experts say it could spare patients from having to use strong steroid creams, which can cause thinning of the skin, stretch marks and acne.

The medicine, called roflumilast, reduces the patches of painful, flaky skin in three-quarters of patients, according to trial results

More than one million people in the UK have psoriasis, which can develop at any age but most often appears in the 20s and then again in the 50s

More than one million people in the UK have psoriasis, which can develop at any age but most often appears in the 20s and then again in the 50s

The medicine, called roflumilast, reduces the patches of painful, flaky skin in three-quarters of patients, according to trial results

It is caused by an over-production of skin cells. Normally they are replaced every three to four weeks, but psoriasis sufferers develop new cells every three to seven days.

Scientists don’t fully understand why this happens in some people, but it is thought to be related to an over-reactive immune system. Treatment consists of creams applied each day, usually containing Vitamin D or steroid ointments.

In September 2021, the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued a warning about withdrawal symptoms seen in patients who had used steroid creams for a long time. Intense itching, peeling of the skin, oozing and open sores were noted two weeks after they stopped using the medication.

But roflumilast was shown not to cause these problems, according to the US studies involving 300 patients.

After two months, three-quarters of the trial group saw a significant improvement in skin quality. Of those with less severe psoriasis, 40 per cent saw an improvement after 12 weeks.

Roflumilast is also the only treatment so far shown to improve a severe type of the disease called intertriginous psoriasis, where patients develop purple patches in folds of skin, such as the armpits.

It is currently prescribed to NHS patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD – severe lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties.

US dermatologist Dr William Werschler said: ‘Roflumilast cream is exciting because it’s a new type of non-steroidal topical medication.

‘In clinical trials, the cream was found to work quickly to reduce itchiness and start to clear patches in a wide variety of psoriasis.’

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