We have had a lot of questions from our patients about the safety of their biologics for psoriasis amid this current pandemic. While nothing yet can prevent you from getting the infection, the question is-are you more at risk.
First, the biologics are not , in the classic sense immunosuppressants. Immunosuppressants are the kinds of drugs used to decrease your immune system so you can keep a kidney or liver transplant. Some kinds of powerful cancer drugs will also decrease your immunity. The biologics we use for psoriasis (and other conditions) are reducing an overactive inflammatory system and they are very targeted.
Nevertheless, patients on biologics tend to get more mild viral infections than those not on them and the TNF inhibitors may be more likely than other classes to have this effect. Certain bacterial infections, like TB are also something we watch for.
Corona virus is a type of flu virus. Influenza is very common every year (there have been about 35 million cases in the US this year) and there is no evidence that patients on biologics are at greater risk for either catching it or dying from it. Similarly, there is no evidence available that people on biologics are at greater risk than normal from Covid19.
The American Academy of Dermatology is recommending that patients on biologics not stop their treatment at this point. Some patients on TNF inhibitors may wish to change to an IL17, IL23 or IL12-23 inhibitor.
Peter Jenkin, MD, FRCPC, FAAD
Dermatology Associates of Seattle