Treating Psoriasis on a Budget

Psoriasis is a chronic condition, and treating it can get expensive. A survey by the National Psoriasis Foundation found that more than 90 percent of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis patients have health insurance — public or private — and yet nearly half said they go without treatment at some point for financial reasons. So, are there ways of saving money while finding relief by treating psoriasis on a budget?

Many people with severe psoriasis have found relief from a relatively new class of drugs known as biologics. Given by injection or intravenous infusions, biologics can cost $18,000 to $28,000 a year per patient, and no generic alternatives are available.

Even those who are treated with creams, ointments, and lotions find that those can get pricey. A single tube of some prescription psoriasis medications can cost $500 to $600.

Fortunately, there are ways to save money on psoriasis treatment without sacrificing success.

First and foremost, talk with your doctor, said Colby Evans, MD, a dermatologist in Austin, Texas, and chair of the National Psoriasis Foundation’s task force on phototherapy copayments. “Don’t be embarrassed or think it’s inappropriate to discuss the cost of treatment,” Dr. Evans said. Many patients, even those with insurance, have challenges, and your doctor can work with you to find the best treatments that also are affordable.

Psoriasis on a Budget

Here’s what else you can do to manage your psoriasis and stay within your budget:

Use generics. “Generic drugs are essentially the same as their brand- name counterparts,” Evans said. Generic drugs can save you a great deal of money. Some newer medications for psoriasis may not exist as generics, but some treatments that are available in generic form can be just as effective. Some stores, such as Target and Wal-Mart, offer a 30-day supply of generic medications for $4. You also may save money if you get your drugs through mail order.

Check for coupons. Many manufacturers offer coupons that you can use to buy their brand-name medications for less. Ask your doctor’s office whether it has one or visit the drug manufacturer’s website to see whether one is available there. Some coupons can be used more than once. Sometimes, Evans said, he has samples he can give patients. “But I usually don’t have enough that I can give you infinite treatments.”

Apply for clinical trials. Manufacturers are constantly testing their drugs — even those that have already won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There are some risks, such as being one of the test subjects who receives a placebo. But trials are conducted under close medical supervision and the drugs are provided for free.

Try at-home or over-the-counter treatments. You may be able to relieve the itch associated with psoriasis with some relatively cheap treatments. For instance, add cooking oil, oatmeal, or Epsom salts to your bathwater and soak for about 15 minutes (don’t soak too long, as water can dry your skin). Apply moisturizer to your skin as soon as you dry off. Look for soap and moisturizers that have aloe or jojoba oil.

“These household remedies are all fine things if they make you feel better,” said Evans.

Over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone cream (1 percent) can provide some relief for mild psoriasis, said Norman Tomaka, MS Pharm, a pharmacy consultant in Melbourne, Fla. “You can get good results with a $2 to $4 tube.”

OTC allergy medicines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) can provide some relief if you’re bothered by itching, Evans noted. Calamine lotion also may provide some relief.

Salicylic Acid and Coal Tar

Coal tar and salicylic acid can be less costly options than some prescription treatments, Tomaka said. Be careful not to leave the salicylic acid on for too long, as it can irritate the skin. Tar derived from coal is best for psoriasis. Coal tar can help reduce inflammation, scaling, and itching of psoriasis. The more coal tar a product contains, the more potent it will be.

Coal tar makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight, Tomaka warned. Also, it remains active on your skin for a minimum of 24 hours.

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