Psoriasis (PsO) affects more than 8 million people in the U.S., and about 80-90% of them are diagnosed with plaque psoriasis. Despite the prevalence of the disease, there are still some factors patients may not understand about the condition, which affects everyone differently.
We sat down with Ponda Motsepe-Ditshego, vice president, Global Medical Therapeutic Area Head, to discuss the challenges people living with plaque psoriasis may face and how Amgen research is hoping to make an impact.
Plaque psoriasis is often downplayed or even dismissed by patients and the general public. What do you believe people, including patients, often misunderstand about plaque psoriasis?
Many people think plaque psoriasis is just an itchy skin rash, but in fact, it is a chronic (life-long), systemic, inflammatory disease. The symptoms of plaque psoriasis that you see on the outside of the skin are really caused by inflammation inside of the body. In other words, the itching, redness and burning typically associated with the disease are actually triggered by a dysfunction of the immune system.
Also, there is a large disease burden of plaque psoriasis on patients, which often goes far beyond physical symptoms. In addition to the symptoms that manifest on the skin, careful attention should be paid to less visible aspects of the disease. One of these “invisible” factors to consider is poor communication between patients and their physicians, which can be a major challenge around the treatment of plaque psoriasis. Patients sometimes struggle to express the effect of their plaque psoriasis on their daily lives, which can impact their doctor’s ability to fully appreciate how their disease creates barriers and challenges.
Plaque psoriasis is also a condition which can flare and subside in between doctor’s visits so it is important for patients to understand and take note of what they are experiencing and feeling so that they can fully explain the effect of the disease to their doctor. This way, their healthcare providers have a thorough idea of what the patient is facing when managing their disease.
There are several treatments available for plaque psoriasis, but many patients still have challenges getting their disease under control. Why is plaque psoriasis so difficult to treat?
Despite available treatment options, what works for one person with plaque psoriasis may not necessarily work for another. Plaque psoriasis is a heterogenous disease, which means it affects each patient differently.
Some individuals may develop plaques in areas that are difficult-to-treat, like the scalp, which may not be effectively treated with certain therapies. This makes it challenging to find a universal treatment that will work for all plaque psoriasis patients and is why it’s important for patients to follow up with their doctor when a treatment isn’t working.
What are some of the challenges healthcare professionals face when diagnosing and treating psoriasis?
There are many tools doctors use to measure the severity of plaque psoriasis. Doctors commonly categorize disease severity by evaluating the amount of body surface area (BSA) affected. What this clinical measurement does not capture is the variety of other factors and metrics that may impact the patient’s experience with their disease. The UPLIFT survey revealed that there is a disconnect between patients' perceptions and standard measures of disease severity that doctors rely on when treating patients.
Again, it’s important for patients to effectively communicate with their doctors so they can work together to find the treatment that’s right for them and potentially help to reduce their burden of the disease.
How is Amgen helping to make an impact in the psoriatic disease community?
As mentioned before, plaque psoriasis is complex, and to help address the disease, you need deep experience with it. We know many patients are still inadequately treated despite the number of available treatment options, and we are focused on finding options for these patients.
We have a depth of experience in inflammatory disorders, which positions us to understand the needs of people living with plaque psoriasis, and our experience in inflammation for over two decades gives us a unique perspective to be able to do so. Amgen recently conducted the global Understanding Psoriatic Disease Leveraging Insights for Treatment (UPLIFT) survey to better understand the evolution of attitudes and behaviors of patients living with psoriatic disease and their healthcare providers. Amgen is also actively working to try to address the underdiagnosis, underrepresentation and undertreatment of skin of color patients with psoriasis.
Further, our goal is to bring therapies to the millions of people with inflammatory diseases, and we hope to continue innovating in order to address unmet needs for patients and their loved ones.
To learn more about facts about plaque psoriasis see our article “7 Things About Psoriasis You Need to Know” in VeryWell Health.