Psoriasis treatments are not cosmetic and this new intervention will ensure lives are saved.

Last week, Janssen Pharmaceuticals held a disease awareness meeting in Parktown on psoriasis comorbidities, noting that most medical aids do not cover treatment because they are deemed to be “cosmetic”.

“Early treatment intervention with new technology will not only save lives and improve patients’ quality of life, but it also makes longer-term financial sense for funders too,” said Dr Moustafa Kamel, Janssen South Africa’s medical affairs director.

Psoriasis is a common, lifelong, inflammatory skin condition, which affects approximately 2% of the world’s population.

An overactive immune system speeds up the life cycle of skin cells. These cells reproduce quicker and pile up on the skin surface, causing the development of thick, scaly, red patches of skin.

Gloria Mokoana has been living with the condition for 32 years and has noticed that people do not want to sit next to her as they are afraid of her condition.

“I took herbs, tried creams and even had my tonsils removed, but it is not going away. It affects more than my skin. My entire body, inside and out, is affected.”

She said her medical aid did not cover her treatment as it classified some creams as cosmetics and defined her condition as a skin disorder.

Kamel said that the patient pathway and concomitant adequate interventions from the moment of diagnosis can prevent future complications.

“The impact of delayed or inadequate treatment could lead to mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, systemic and potentially life-threatening complications.”

Living with the condition for 23 years, Natashua De Villers has consistent pains in her joints and has undergone surgery on the right side of her back.

De Villers has since been hospitalised with major depression because she, at times, cannot look at herself in the mirror. She dreams of a life where people do not stare or ask about her skin, and where she could try dating again.

The impact of psoriasis is more than cosmetic. I hope that medical aids will begin to see that psoriasis affects the whole body from the inside and that the associated conditions of depression and daily pain should be taken more seriously.

Medical aids will benefit too

Kamel said that early innovative systemic intervention can negate future complications and benefit patient outcomes positively while simultaneously providing longer-term financial savings for medical funders.

“Treatment with the best pharma technology available upfront demands a new approach from healthcare professionals with a concomitant and a different actuarial approach.

“It is not dissimilar to wellness programmes offered or propagated by many funds, where healthy lifestyles have shown a positive impact on patients’ health and, ergo, financial demand on a scheme. Early intervention follows the same principle. Invest in your patient’s health now and realise greater savings over time.”

Lydia Felton was diagnosed with psoriasis arthritis, which caused her so much pain that she could barely move or walk. Having a three-year-old and a newborn did not make it any easier for her and her family.

However, Felton’s story gets better. In February, her medical aid finally agreed to pay for her biologic treatment, which saw her condition improve from 97% to 7% within five months.

I can enjoy my time spent out with my children. I go to the gym every morning and I am comfortable and happy in my skin.

How to treat psoriasis

According to specialist dermatologist Dr Tarryn Jacobs, treatment of psoriasis is centred around anti-inflammatory prescription medication. Depending on the severity of the condition, prescriptions include topical creams, light therapy, and oral and injectable medications.

How psoriasis affects the skin barrier

Psoriasis affects the skin’s hydration and the function of the skin barrier. The skin barrier is made up of multiple layers of cells called corneocytes, which can be considered the “bricks” of a protective wall. They are held together by “glue”, which are the lipids in our skin, such as ceramides.

A healthy skin barrier maintains the water balance in the skin and protects against environmental aggressors, such as UV rays, microorganisms and pollution.

Skincare tips for people with psoriasis?

Jacobs said that the fact that psoriasis affects the skin barrier means that good basic skin care practices are essential in conjunction with medical treatment. This can help to relieve dryness and itchiness, and strengthen the skin barrier function, which can improve the overall quality of life.?

It’s important to cleanse your skin by using gentle pH-balanced cleansers, which can protect against further disruption of the fragile skin barrier.?

Moisturisers can help to reduce the dryness, scaling and roughness of psoriasis-affected skin.