Psoriasis medication may help with heart disease

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Paul Gates shows us his hands marked by white scaly skin, and sometimes what looks like paper cuts. It's psoriasis, where the skin sheds ten times faster than normal.

Medical background / Photo: Wesley Wilson / (MGN)

“It gets on the back of my knuckles. And sometimes handing out things, I have had on occasion someone will ask me if I am passing something off to them,” says Gates.

For the record, psoriasis is not contagious. The skin disorder is not just on Paul's hands, but elbows and feet as well. He says he tried a lot of products to soothe his skin. But he's found relief with medical drugs called biologics. These are drugs injected into the skin monthly or over a longer period of time. They contain man-made proteins or antibodies which quell the body's over active immune system which causes psoriasis.

Researchers wondered why people on these medications were seeing a decrease in inflammation of the coronary arteries.

“Actually a group out of Davis looked at it,” says Dr. Cindy Lamerson, MD, with Nevada Center for Dermatology. “A cardiologist and a dermatologist, a married couple, looked at if people were on these biologic medications, did that reduce their risk? And lo and behold, even years ago, they saw there was a risk deduction. Like if they were on the TNF medication, that the risk of stroke and heart attack decreased,” Dr. Lamerson says.

Does this mean patients will be prescribed biologics to ward off heart disease and stroke? Not necessarily.

Researchers don't know if the same protection of coronary arteries would apply to patients who don't have autoimmune diseases like psoriasis.

Biologics are not FDA-approved to treat heart disease at this time. But that could change as researchers look further into the potential benefits of biologics.