By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The problem with most skin treatments is they just don’t last.

Now, a new breakthrough could change that, but it’ll cost you.

“You’re embarrassed. I mean, it’s something visibly someone could see if you have. Other diseases it’s not showing like this does,” Dave Novakovich said.

Novakovich, a musician and IT specialist, has psoriasis. His skin scales and thickens. It’s itchy and painful and bleeds when he scratches.

“I have it everywhere, on my back, on my stomach, on my legs,” he said. “When I had it on my knees, just to get down on my knees was like leaning on nails. It’s very difficult to get rid of. I’ve been fighting it for about seven years now.”

He first tried light therapy, then moved on to creams, and ointments, then injections called biologics — drugs that fine-tune the immune system, which we now understand directs dividing skin cells to pick up the pace in this disease.

“But, some people have psoriasis over 50-60 percent of their body surface area. I’ve had a number of patients who were afraid to go to the beach, afraid to wear short sleeves,” Dr. Brian Horvath, of Horvath Dermatology, said. “As our understanding of psoriasis has increased, we’ve gotten better at targeting more and more specific parts of the immune system.”

The shots to come on the market more than a decade ago were given every couple weeks. Then, shots came along with an every three to four-month schedule.

A new shot is on the horizon that might be just once a year. In studies, some people had relief for up to 66 weeks.

“That medicine is still under phase two trials and several years away from being available,” Dr. Horvath said. “Most people would probably like to have fewer injections.”

Potential concerns include a higher risk of infection, and possibly cancer years later.

Dr. Horavth prefers to start his psoriasis patients on medicines that have been tried and true.

But if Novakovich’s latest treatments don’t control his symptoms, he could be a good candidate for the new drug.

“I’m willing to try anything,” he said.

It very likely would be expensive and even more than current options, which can cost $15,000 to $30,000 a year. Patients often need drug company assistance and coupons.

“I just got recently laid-off, you worry about your health insurance. Will I be able to afford that?” Novakovich said. “I think it’s like $2,000 an injection. I think I pay $5.”

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