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Findings from a survey distributed by the U.S. National Psoriasis Foundation show that many patients, unsatisfied with the results or side effects of their prescribed psoriasis treatments, are turning to complementary or alternative medicine.
Published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (July 2019; 81(1):280–283), the findings come from a survey promoted in the Foundation’s Oct. 2018 digital newsletter, sent to 100,927 members. Of those who received the newsletter, 6,101 opened it, 324 clicked the survey, and 219 completed it. More respondents were female than male (68.5% vs. 31.5%), most participants were white (84.1%), with 6.2% being Hispanic, 3.1% Asian, and 2.6% African American. Most participants were diagnosed by a dermatologist and had health insurance to cover their medications.
The survey found that patients reported choosing to use complementary or alternative medicine mostly due to a perceived lack of efficacy from conventional therapy, or because they felt the side effects of their conventional treatments were too high. Only 4% reported lack of access to care as the reason for choosing complementary or alternative treatments.
Respondents reported using complementary or alternative medicines that have not previously exhibited efficacy or have not been studied for the treatment of psoriasis. Vitamins D and B12 were frequently reported, though neither of which have documented efficacy against the disease. In contrast, indigo naturalis—a plant extract widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and recognized as a therapy for several inflammatory conditions—has shown efficacy, but was not reported in the survey. Dead Sea treatments were commonly reported and have shown therapeutic benefit.
“Patients turn to these treatments because what was initially prescribed is not working out for them,” explained the paper’s senior author, Dr. Adam Friedman, in a press release. “But what we found through the survey is that patients may not completely understand what products will work best for them.”
“In addition to the chosen treatments, we also found that less than half of the respondents would recommend complementary or alternative therapies to others,” said Dr. Friedman, interim chair of the department of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “This could be a result of using therapies supported by limited evidence.”
In light of the findings of how frequently patients are using complementary or alternative medicine approaches, Dr. Friedman and his team suggest that educational initiatives that enable physicians to discuss evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine may improve patient satisfaction and outcomes.