What Is Biologic Therapy for Psoriasis? A Dermatologist Explains

These new medications can yield life-changing results.

Loading the player...

Biologics are one of the newer options for treating psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis—and they’re also one of the most effective.

“Biologic medications can be very helpful to combat psoriasis by working with your immune system to slow down the hyperproliferative state,” says Bobby Buka, MD, dermatologist and section chief at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

A hyperproliferative state means that the skin is turning over new cells too quickly (faster than it sheds them). As a result, the skin cells build up, and you develop silvery scale-like plaques on the body. Learn more about what psoriasis is here.

The mainstay treatment for psoriasis is topical steroid creams, ointments, and foams; however, for moderate to severe psoriasis, other treatments may be necessary. One of those options is biologic therapy.

Biologics work directly with the immune system to reduce inflammation and psoriasis symptoms. It does this by targeting the exact part of the immune system that causes psoriasis—as opposed to shutting down or suppressing the entire system. By only targeting a specific part of the immune system, your body can still fight infectious bacteria or viruses.

“We’re only deactivating a very small arm of the immune system—the one that’s responsible for psoriasis,” says Dr. Buka. “There are these proteins called cytokines, and when there’s an overproduction of these cytokines, the skin responds by turning over too quickly.”

The biologics bind to cytokines and render them inactive. “Think of a sponge mopping up water. The water’s still there, but the sponge is now absorbed with those cytokines,” says Dr. Buka.

Biologics have revolutionized treatment for psoriasis. For many people who have struggled to find relief, biologic therapy has successfully cleared up their psoriasis symptoms—and just as importantly, helped to prevent progression to psoriatic arthritis.