From the Journals

AAD, NPF update use of phototherapy for psoriasis



Phototherapy remains a viable element of psoriasis care for many patients, used alone or in conjunction with other treatments, according to updated guidelines issued jointly by the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Psoriasis Foundation.

Craig A. Elmets, MD, professor of dermatology, University of Alabama, Birmingham

Dr. Craig A. Elmets

“Phototherapy serves as a reasonable and effective treatment option for patients requiring more than topical medications and/or those wishing to avoid systemic medications or simply seeking an adjunct to a failing regimen,” wrote working group cochair Craig A. Elmets, MD, professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and coauthors.

The guidelines, which focus on phototherapy for adults with psoriasis, join a multipart series on psoriasis being published this year in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The working group used an evidence-based model to examine efficacy, effectiveness, and adverse effects of the following modalities: narrow-band ultraviolet B (NB-UVB); broadband ultraviolet B (BB-UVB); targeted phototherapy using excimer laser and excimer lamp; psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA) therapy, including topical, oral, and bath PUVA; photodynamic therapy (PDT), grenz ray therapy, climatotherapy; visible light therapy; Goeckerman therapy; and pulsed dye laser/intense pulsed light.

NB-UVB, which can be used to treat generalized plaque psoriasis, refers to wavelengths of 311-313 nm. The recommended treatment is two or three times a week, with a starting dose based on skin phenotype or minimal erythema dose. Although oral PUVA has shown higher clearance rates, compared with NB-UVB, NB-UVB has demonstrated fewer side effects. NB-UVB also has shown effectiveness for psoriasis in combination with medications including oral retinoids, “particularly useful in patients at increased risk for skin cancer,” the working group wrote. Genital shielding and eye protection are recommended during all phototherapy sessions to reduce the risk of cancer and cataracts, they emphasized.

BB-UVB, an older version of NB-UVB, is still effective for generalized plaque psoriasis as monotherapy, but evidence does not support additional benefit in combination with other treatments, and overall BB-UVB is less effective than either NB-UVB or oral PUVA, the working group said.

For treatment of localized psoriatic lesions, some evidence supports the ability of targeted UVB therapy to improve lesions in fewer treatments and at a lower cumulative dose, compared with nontargeted phototherapy, for palmoplantar plaque psoriasis and palmoplantar pustulosis. Excimer lasers also have shown effectiveness against scalp psoriasis, the working group noted. However, “there is insufficient evidence to recommend the excimer laser rather than topical PUVA for treatment of localized plaque psoriasis,” they said.

PUVA treatments are available as topical creams, or they can be taken orally, or mixed with bath water. All forms of PUVA include psoralens, photosensitizing agents that prepare target cells for the effects of UVA light. Topical PUVA has demonstrated particular effectiveness for palmoplantar psoriasis, the working group noted, but there is a risk of phototoxicity, so it has become less popular, they added. Similarly, evidence supports effectiveness of oral and bath PUVA, but all forms are used less frequently because of the increased availability of NB-UVB phototherapy, they said.

PDT is primarily used to destroy premalignant or malignant cells, and in theory “PDT-induced apoptosis of T lymphocytes could lead to reductions in inflammatory cytokines and, in turn, to improvement of psoriasis,” the working group noted. However, “clinical studies have failed to find significant benefit” of PDT using either 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) or methyl aminolevulinic acid (MAL) for psoriasis, or any significant benefits of MAL-PDT for nail psoriasis.

The grenz ray is an effective, but rarely used treatment in which 75% of long-wavelength ionizing radiation is absorbed by the first 1 mm of skin and 95% is absorbed within the first 3 mm of skin to protect the deeper tissues from radiation. Although more alternatives are available, grenz rays can be used for psoriasis patients unable to tolerate UV therapy, according to the working group.

Climatotherapy involves temporary or permanent relocation of the patient to a part of the world with a climate that could be favorable for psoriasis because of the unique effects of environmental factors in those areas. The evidence to support climatotherapy is both subjective and objective, but considered safe.

Visible light has been associated with improvement in erythema in psoriasis, with hyperpigmentation as the only notable side effect based on the evidence reviewed. However, the working group found the current evidence insufficient to recommend the use of intense pulsed light for treating psoriasis.

Dr. Alan Menter, chairman of dermatology, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas.

Dr. Alan Menter

Goeckerman therapy, a method that combines coal tar and UVB phototherapy, has shown safety and effectiveness for patients with recalcitrant or severe psoriasis, and remains a recommended treatment, according to the working group research. However, this method is underused, especially in the United States, because of the messiness of the application, challenge of insurance reimbursement, and investment of time for outpatient care, the work group noted.

Pulsed dye laser treatment is effective for nail psoriasis, and reported adverse effects have been mild, according to the working group.

Overall, the guidelines emphasize that quality of life and disease severity should be considered and discussed with patients along with efficacy and safety information so they can make informed decisions about adding phototherapy to a current regimen or switching among modalities.

The guidelines have no funding sources. Several coauthors disclosed relationships with multiple companies, including manufacturers of psoriasis products; however, a minimum of 51% of the work group had no relevant financial conflicts to disclose, in accordance with AAD policy. Work group members with potential conflicts recused themselves from discussion and drafting of recommendations in the relevant topic areas. Alan Menter, MD, chairman of the division of dermatology, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, is the other cochair of the work group.

SOURCE: Elmets CA et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Jul 18. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2019.04.042.

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