Harvard Health Ad Watch: An upbeat ad for a psoriasis treatment

Harvard Health Ad Watch: An upbeat ad for a psoriasis treatment

Psoriasis is a chronic disease in which skin cells rapidly divide, causing the skin to develop rough, red, scaly patches. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form: affected skin has sharply defined, inflamed patches (plaques) with silvery or white scales, often near an elbow or on the shins and trunk. The cause of psoriasis isn’t known, but there are a number of treatment options. Possibly you’ve seen a glossy, happy ad for one of these treatments, a drug called Skyrizi. It’s been in heavy rotation and in 2020, hit number four on a top 10 list for ad spending by a drug company. A woman in a bathing suit sprints down a dock and jumps into the water with several friends. There’s lots of smiling and splashing. A voiceover says “I have moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. Now, there’s Skyrizi. Three out of four people achieved 90% clearer skin at four months after just two doses.” Then, the voiceover moves to warning mode: “Skyrizi may increase your risk of infections and lower your ability to fight them. Before treatment your doctor should check you for infections and tuberculosis. Tell your doctor if you have an infection or symptoms such as fever, sweats, chills, muscle aches, or cough, or if you plan to or recently received a vaccine.” As these warnings are delivered, we’re treated to uplifting pop music — “nothing is everything,” a woman sings — while attractive young people flail about in the water. “Ask your doctor about Skyrizi,” a voice instructs. Did I mention a plane is skywriting the drug’s logo? I guess it’s putting the “sky” in Skyrizi. Skyrizi (risankizumab) is an injectable medication that counteracts interleukin-23, a chemical messenger closely involved in the development of psoriasis. The standard dosing is two injections to start, followed a month later by two injections once a month, and then two injections once every three months. Did you catch that “injectable” part? This is not a pill. If you missed that point while watching the commercial, it’s not your fault. The word “injection” appears once, written in faint letters at the very end of the commercial. By the way, the FDA has only approved this drug for moderate to severe — not mild — plaque psoriasis. The studies earning approval enrolled people with psoriasis on at least 10% of their skin and two separate measures of severity. And the theme song? People with visible psoriasis often cover up their skin due to embarrassment or stigma. The rash isn’t a contagious infection or a reflection of poor health, but other people may react as if it is. So, an effective treatment could potentially allow some to forego covering up and show more skin: it means “everything” to someone suffering with psoriasis to cover “nothing.” Thus, a theme song is born. Some people appreciate the information provided by medication ads. Others favor a ban on such advertising, as is the case in most other countries. And recently, two advocacy groups asked the FDA not to allow drug ads to play music when the risks of drug side effects are presented, arguing that it distracts consumers from focusing on this important information. Since these ads probably are not going away anytime soon, keep in mind that they may spin information in a positive light and leave out other important information altogether. So, be skeptical and ask questions. Get your medication information from your doctor or another unbiased, authoritative source, not a company selling a product. As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. The flaking and itchy skin caused by eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis can be very uncomfortable and often leads to feeling self-conscious or alone during flare-ups. Fortunately, there is much you can do to tame these inflammatory skin conditions. It may take some trial and error, but chances are that you will find a strategy that works for you. This guide will help you understand your options. You’ll learn about what causes these skin conditions; typical symptoms of each; how these conditions are diagnosed and treated; and what you can do on your own (and with your doctor) to manage them. Several forms of psoriasis exist. While distinct, they may overlap in particular individuals. Plaque psoriasis This is the most common type of psoriasis. Although it can develop at any age, it most commonly appears from young adulthood to middle age. Symptoms include raised patches of red, inflamed skin, covered with silvery-white flaky scales. Plaques may crack, ooze, and bleed. They can develop anywhere, but are most common on elbows and knees. They also commonly develop on the scalp. Affected areas may itch or hurt. Guttate psoriasis This type of psoriasis usually develops suddenly in childhood or adolescence. It may be triggered by an infection, usually strep throat. Guttate psoriasis is characterized by small red, scaly bumps that are scattered across the arms and torso (including the back, chest, and abdomen). Inverse (intertriginous) psoriasis This form of psoriasis typically appears in folds of skin, such as under the arm, behind the knee, under the breasts, or in the groin area. Symptoms include bright red areas on the skin that may be shiny and smooth. Inverse psoriasis can occur at the same time as other forms of psoriasis. It is sometimes mistaken for a fungal or yeast infection of the skin. Pustular psoriasis In this type of psoriasis, pus-filled blisters (pustules) develop on red, inflamed skin. This type of psoriasis most often affects the hands and feet. It is most common in adults. Symptoms include pustules on the palms or fingers, or on the soles of the feet or toes. These pustules may crack and cause painful fissures in the skin. A rare but life-threatening subtype of pustular psoriasis, von Zumbusch psoriasis, requires immediate medical attention. In this condition, large areas of fiery red, painful skin spread quickly over much of your body. Pustules develop soon afterwards. Your skin may peel off in sheets, and you may develop fever and chills. This type of psoriasis requires immediate medical attention, as it can disrupt the skin’s ability to maintain internal temperature and can lead to shock. It’s also known as acute generalized pustular psoriasis. Nail psoriasis When psoriasis affects the nails, it may cause a scattering of pits, similar to pinpricks, across the nail. It may also cause brown “oil spots” to appear on the nail or cause the nail to separate from its bed. In the most severe cases, nails may grow thick and crumble. The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more. 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