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Seasonal and Swine Flu Threat Greater for People With Psoriasis Who Are Taking Immunosuppressive Drugs

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 General News J E 4
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People on immunosuppressants should receive vaccines and take extra precaution

PORTLAND, Ore., Oct. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- People with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis who are taking biologic or non-biologic immunosuppressive medications should receive the inactived forms of both seasonal influenza and H1N1 (swine flu) vaccines as soon as possible, according to a recommendation from the National Psoriasis Foundation.

The National Psoriasis Foundation's medical experts recommend that patients taking immunosuppressive medication including biologic (Amevive, Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, Simponi or Stelara) or non-biologic (cyclosporine-Neoral or methotrexate) drugs take the following steps:

  • Get vaccinated early. The same medications that suppress psoriasis make patients more vulnerable to influenza viruses.
  • Receive both vaccines to be protected from seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses.
  • Receive only inactive vaccines. Both vaccines come in inactived and live forms. People taking immunosuppressive medication should only receive the inactivated vaccines.
  • Take more daily health precautions. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends avoiding close contact with people who are sick, washing hands frequently, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth.

According to the CDC, the seasonal flu vaccine is available beginning in September and through the winter. The inactivated form of the H1N1 vaccine will be available this fall, though exact dates are not known.

"For most people, flu is an annoying aspect of winter. For people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis who are taking immunosuppressive drugs, it can be a much more serious health threat," said Mark Lebwohl, M.D., professor and chairman of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and chair of the National Psoriasis Foundation Medical Board. "With the addition of swine flu as a concern this year, we urge everyone on these drugs to take extra precaution."

Lebwohl added that patients should discuss the risk and benefits of vaccination with their doctor.

In most other cases, the National Psoriasis Foundation recommends that patients with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis follow the recommended schedule of immunization for the general population available on the CDC Web site.

About Psoriasis

Psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the country, affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans. Appearing on the skin most often as red scaly patches that itch and bleed, psoriasis is chronic, painful, disfiguring and disabling. Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, a related joint disease. There is no cure for psoriasis.  

About the National Psoriasis Foundation

The National Psoriasis Foundation is the world's largest nonprofit organization serving people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Our mission is to find a cure for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and to eliminate their devastating effects through research, advocacy and education. For more information, call the Psoriasis Foundation, headquartered in Portland, Ore., at 800.723.9166, or visit www.psoriasis.org.

SOURCE National Psoriasis Foundation

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