Patients Frequently Use Complementary, Alternative Medicines for Psoriasis When Other Therapies Fail

Many patients with psoriasis turn to complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) when traditional therapies fail to treat their symptoms, according to a new study published by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Despite the growing use of CAMs for psoriasis, many patients may misunderstand the benefits of these medicines, according to the study. The authors noted that prior research shows that up to 62% of patients reported using CAM for their psoriasis symptoms. For the current study, the authors examined the types of CAMs used and the patients’ reasons for using them.
Through a survey distributed by the National Psoriasis Foundation, 219 patients with psoriasis participated in the study by answering questions about CAM use. Overall, 41% reported using alternative therapies, with higher utilization found in patients who consider their psoriasis to be severe than among those who do not, according to the study. Additionally, 39.5% reported using complementary therapies, with women more likely to report use than men.
The study showed that the most common reasons for using CAMs were that traditional medications did not help or had adverse effects. Only 4% reported care access as a reason. A total of 42.6% said they would recommend CAMs to others.
Although patients may resort to using CAMs when the treatment they were initially prescribed did not work for them, they still may not completely understand which products to use, the researchers noted.
Many of the CAMs that patients reported using have not exhibited efficacy or have not been studied per a recent systematic review. Although vitamins were the most frequently reported therapy, neither vitamin D nor B12 have documented efficacy. Indigo naturalis, a plant extract recognized for use in inflammatory conditions, has demonstrated efficacy but was not reported by any patients in the survey. However, Dead Sea treatments, which have shown therapeutic benefit as well, were commonly reported.
Knowing that CAM use is frequent among this patient population, providers can include discussions on more evidence-based CAMs to help patients choose products that may be more beneficial than those supported by limited evidence. 
Friedman AJ, Murphy EC, Nussbaum D, et al. Use of complementary and alternative medicine by patients with psoriasis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2019. Doi:

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