Skin Treatment Lowers Heart Attack Risk

Psoriasis treatment using TNF inhibitors lowers risk of heart attack by 55 percent

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) For psoriasis patients, all kinds of options are available to treat the red and irritated skin. Some treatments have more benefits than others, including how it affects your risk for heart attacks.

Treating psoriasis with TNF inhibitors, which are man-made molecules that target bad cells in the body, greatly reduces the risk of having a heart attack, a new study has found.

"Talk to your dermatologist - see which treatment is right for you."

These TNF inhibitors, which stands for tumor necrosis factor, have been shown to decrease patients' heart attack risk more than using lotions and creams on the skin disorder.

The study, led by Jashin Wu, MD, at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, divided 8,845 patients diagnosed with psoriasis into three groups, each with a particular treatment over two months.

One group, comprised of 1,673 patients, received an inhibitor treatment over an average of 685 days.

The second group, containing 2,097 patients, were treated with some other systemic or photo therapy, and the last group of 5,075 patients received a topical treatment.

Researchers monitored participants a little more than four years, ending Oct. 2011. Any follow-ups ending prior to that time occurred if patients had a heart attack, disenrolled from the study, or passed away.

By the end of the study, 402 patients (or 4.5 percent) had died, 1,818 (about 21 percent) ended their membership with the program early, and 6,404 (72 percent) were observed the whole time.

Overall, 221 heart attacks occurred among the group during the study for an overall rate of about 5 per 1,000 patients.

They found that compared to topical treatments, oral and phototherapy decreased heart attack risk by 43 percent.

The inhibitor decreased risk by 55 percent. In total, about three out of 1000 patients given the inhibitor had heart attacks, versus almost seven for topical cohorts.

Compared to oral medications, the risk of having a heart attack was about the same at four patients.

"We can't say definitely that [psoriasis drugs] will cause a reduction in heart attacks, but certainly it's a clue," Wu said as reported by the Washington Post.

The authors declare some limitations with the study. They didn't take into account the severity of the psoriasis, whether patients smoked or not, and any other drugs patients took, which may or may not affect heart attacks to begin with.

Patients were also able to choose which treatment they wanted, and researchers didn't track how long or how much of the treatment patients received, the authors note.

Dr. Wu received grants from Abbott Laboratories, Amgen and Pfizer that were not directly related to the study, which was funded by Kaiser Permanente's Garfield Memorial Fund. The company had no role in the how the study was designed or conducted.

The study was published Aug. 20 in the online edition of Archives of Dermatology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 28, 2012
Last Updated:
September 1, 2012