Military Dermatology

Apremilast Uses and Relevance to the Military

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Off-Label Uses

Ease of oral administration and a favorable safety profile have prompted off-label study of apremilast in other inflammatory skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis, hidradenitis suppurativa, lichen planus, rosacea, alopecia areata, and cutaneous sarcoidosis. Publications with a minimum case series of 10 patients are included in the Table.24-32

guttate psoriasis

Use in the Military and Beyond

Psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions are common in the military and can greatly hinder a service member’s ability to perform their duties and remain ready to deploy. A history of psoriasis is disqualifying for military recruits, but early entry into service, misdiagnosis, and low or no burden of disease at time of entry into the service all contribute to a substantial population of active-duty service members who require treatment of psoriasis.33 Necessity dictates that treatment of this condition extend to theater operations; from 2008 to 2015, more than 3600 soldiers sought care for psoriasis while deployed to a combat theater.34

In some cases, poorly controlled inflammatory skin conditions lead to medical separation.33 Although there are limited data on the use of apremilast in the military, its use during deployment for the treatment of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis has been reported, with the great majority of service members retaining their deployable status even 1 year after the study period.35

The ideal medication for deployable military personnel should have low toxicity, simple storage, and minimal monitoring requirements, and it should not expose a service member to increased risk while in a combat theater. Worldwide deployability is a requirement for most military occupations. The risk for immunosuppression with targeted immune therapy must be fully weighed, as certain duty stations and deployments might increase the risk for exposure to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, endemic mycopathogens, hepatitis C virus, HIV, Leishmania, and Strongyloides.34

Furthermore, the tumor necrosis factor α inhibitors and IL-17 and IL-23 blockers used to treat psoriasis all require refrigeration; often, this requirement cannot be met in austere overseas settings. Additional requirements for laboratory monitoring, titration of medications, and frequent office visits might prohibit a service member from performing their duties, which, in turn, is detrimental to military readiness and the career of that service member.

Last, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend avoiding live virus vaccination while taking targeted immune therapy because of safety and effectiveness concerns during immunosuppression.36 This recommendation might disqualify military personnel from deployment to certain locations that require the protection that such vaccines afford. Therefore, apremilast is an ideal option for the military patient population, with many military-specific advantages.

Of course, the military is not the only population in whom ease of use and storage and simplified monitoring parameters are essential. Benefits of apremilast also may translate to patients who are placed in austere conditions or who participate in extended worldwide travel for work or leisure, such as government contractors who deploy in support of military operations, firefighters or national park employees who spend extended periods in resource-limited settings, and foreign-aid workers and diplomats who are engaged in frequent travel around the world. Furthermore, travel to certain regions might increase the risk for exposure to atypical pathogens as well as the desire for a therapeutic option that does not have potential to suppress the immune system. This subset of psoriasis patients might be better treated with novel agents such as apremilast than other drugs that would be the presumed standard of care in a domestic setting.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of apremilast translate to all patients in austere environments with limited resources and during times when immune function is of utmost concern. For military service members and many civilians in austere environments worldwide, apremilast could be considered a first-line systemic agent for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. In patients unable to use or tolerate other treatments, apremilast can be considered for off-label therapy (Table24-32). There are times when the approach to prescribing must look beyond primary efficacy, AE profile, and cost—to include occupation, environment, or duties—to select the optimal medication for a patient.


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