Treatment failure and the adverse effects of traditional psoriasis medications increasingly are driving patients to complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs), despite limited documentation supporting their efficacy, reported Emily C. Murphy and her associates, in the department of dermatology, George Washington University, Washington.

They performed a survey-based statistical analysis to identify specific types of commonly used CAMs, and to explore reasons patients increasingly turn to alternative therapies. The survey was distributed in the National Psoriasis Foundation’s (NPF) October 2018 newsletter to its 100,927 members. Their results were published in a letter to the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Of the 6,101 NPF members who opened the newsletter, 324 clicked on the survey link. Of the 219 who completed the survey, almost 70% were women. The majority were white (84.1%), compared with Hispanic (6.2%), Asian (3.1%), and black (2.6%) participants. Most of the survey respondents had a dermatologist diagnosis of psoriasis, as well as access to health insurance to cover any prescribed medicines needed.

Of the 41% of respondents who reported using alternative therapies, usage was especially high among those who considered their psoriasis as severe (50% vs. 33.6% of those with nonsevere disease). Among the respondents, women were more likely than were men to use CAMs (45.6% vs. 26.5%, P = .002).

Only 4% cited access to care as a reason for choosing alternative therapies; the majority said they used CAMs because “traditional medications did not help or had side effects.”

While men were more likely than were women to use vitamins (24% vs. 18.9%, respectively), Dead Sea bath salts (17% vs. 7.8%), and cupping (3% vs. 0.8%), women were more likely to use herbals/botanicals (17% vs. 14%) and yoga (9.6% vs. 2%).

Patients with moderate psoriasis were significantly more likely than were those with mild or severe cases of the disease to recommend CAMs, regardless of insurance status (52.4% vs. 35% among those with mild disease and 40.4% for those with severe disease).

For some of the commonly used treatments, such as vitamins D and B12, there is insufficient evidence documenting their efficacy, although Dead Sea treatments have been shown to have therapeutic effects. And while there is efficacy evidence for indigo naturalis and meditation, these were not mentioned or were not commonly reported by respondents, the authors pointed out.

Although just 43% of patients said they would recommend a CAM to other people with psoriasis, its use remains widespread. For this reason, “educational initiatives that enable physicians to discuss evidence-based CAMs may improve patient satisfaction and outcomes,” observed Ms. Murphy, a research fellow, and her associates.

Previous studies have cited rates of CAM usage among patients with psoriasis as high as 62%, but researchers have failed to examine the reasons motivating usage. Not surprisingly, patients often use but misunderstand the benefits of alternative therapies.

“The onus is on us as physicians to not only ask our patients if they are using nonallopathic therapies for their psoriasis, but also to create an accepting environment that enables further discussion regarding said treatments to ensure patient safety and ultimately good outcomes,” senior author Adam Friedman, MD, professor and interim chair of dermatology at George Washington University, said in an interview.

The authors had no financial sources or conflicts of interest to disclose; there was no funding source.

SOURCE: Murphy E et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Mar 29. pii: S0190-9622(19)30503-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2019.03.059.