Before a psoriasis treatment reaches patients, it is tested, over a period of years and at great expense, at dermatology clinics and hospitals across the United States and abroad. Volunteers are recruited to participate in these clinical trials.
The formats vary; one standard trial is to compare a group of people with psoriasis receiving the experimental treatment being tested, to another group of people with psoriasis being given an identical-looking but harmless “treatment” – one that does not have the active ingredient. To reduce the chance for bias, neither the patient nor the doctor knows who is receiving the real medication and who is receiving the placebo (the pretend treatment) until the trial is complete.
Then, using statistics, the research team can compare differences in safety and effectiveness of the real drug vs. the placebo and determine whether the differences are statistically significant, beyond random chance.
A similar trial might compare an experimental treatment to a treatment already on the market, to try to prove the experimental treatment’s superiority (or at least “non-inferiority”). There are many other kinds of trial design as well.
Clinical trials are not for everyone, in part because in some trials, some of the patients are not actually receiving a real treatment, so their psoriasis may get worse. Also, while the safety of experimental treatments are first studied in test-tubes and animals, there are occasions when the trial uncovers serious harm done to the people given the experimental treatment. There are numerous measures in place to minimize these risks, and ongoing, careful physician monitoring, but risks cannot be completely eliminated. These risks are explained in detail before you commit to and begin the trial, and there are procedures to withdraw while the trial is still in progress if it is making you ill.
The benefits are you get seen by excellent doctors who often specialize in psoriasis, you may get a great treatment years before it reaches the public, and you do not have to pay for the trial drug. You are also helping advance the world’s scientific knowledge about psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis.
The federal government runs a website clearinghouse of clinical trials. You can find the trials that are currently recruiting patients below.
If you decide to enter a clinical trial, or have done one in the past, let us know. We would love to hear your thoughts on the experience.