Sticking to your psoriasis treatment plan is the best way to manage your condition, avoid flare-ups, and support your overall wellness. Sticking with treatment can be particularly tricky for people with psoriasis. About 40 percent of people with psoriasis don’t follow their treatment plans as prescribed.
Adhering to your treatment plan means using your treatment exactly as prescribed by your doctor. That includes using the treatments as often as directed, for the amount of time directed, and not letting time lapse between prescription refills.
Some reasons for poor treatment adherence include the complexity of the treatment routine, the cost of treatments, and bothersome side effects. Not adhering to your treatment plan can lead to poor control of your psoriasis symptoms, which in turn can require more doctor visits and the use of drugs reserved for more severe psoriasis.
Below are tips that can help you improve treatment adherence, so you can get the full benefits of your psoriasis treatment.
Keeping track of your medications while juggling all your other obligations can be challenging. Setting reminders, whether with high- or low-tech tools, is a good way to make sure you stick to your treatment schedule. The following tools can help you remember to take your medications:
It can be helpful to take your oral medication with the same meal every day.
You can also reach out to friends, family members, and teammates on MyPsoriasisTeam to ask for gentle nudges. They cannot replace a smartphone alarm, but personal reminders to stick to your treatments are practical ways your loved ones can support you.
Your dermatologist should be your partner in making your treatment work for you. A strong doctor-patient relationship — one where the doctor listens and engages in a two-way dialogue — has been associated with better treatment adherence. This includes talking to your doctor about your treatment goals, preferences, and any barriers you face to sticking with a treatment plan.
Ideally, your doctor already understands the importance of engaging you as a full partner in making decisions about your treatment options. However, you may have to speak up to get what you need from them. Here are some tips for better communication with your doctor.
If there’s something you want to know about your condition or treatment, ask your doctor. Similarly, ask your health care provider to pause and explain any unfamiliar medical terminology or instructions. If you don’t ask, you could miss information that’s vital to your health.
Sometimes, people with psoriasis stop using their medications because they decide they’re not working or are frustrated by slow results. Ask your doctor questions about what you can expect from the medication.
For example, ask what results the medication should achieve and how long it will take to see changes. If you’re prescribed a biologic, you can ask if you can expect complete skin clearance, or if remission is possible. Being clear about what the medication can achieve — and on what timeline — can help you stick with it, especially while waiting to see improvement.
You are more likely to stick with a treatment that fits into your life. If you have trouble applying topical medications as regularly as you’re supposed to or don’t like taking lots of pills, share that information with your doctor. Part of getting the best health care for you is developing a plan that fits your unique needs.
Be honest with your doctor about the challenges you’re facing. You may feel sheepish about the issues you’re having, but take comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone. Many studies have looked into the reasons why people have difficulty sticking to psoriasis treatment. Some common issues are concerns about treatment effectiveness, inconvenience, worries about side effects, and cost.
The costs of medications for psoriasis can be a barrier to treatment adherence. The following options can help you access treatments for a lower price.
A prescription assistance program, also called a patient assistance program or a PAP, is a program run by a drug manufacturer that allows uninsured or underinsured people to access treatment for a reduced cost or for free. Individual programs may have different criteria for who qualifies, including household income. You can ask your doctor if the manufacturer of your medication offers a PAP.
You can also look into organizations like Simplefill or NeedyMeds that help individuals access PAPs. Your state may also offer prescription drug support.
If you have private health insurance, you may be eligible for a copay card, sometimes called copay coupons. These programs help cover the out-of-pocket expenses associated with your medications. Your doctor or pharmacist may have information about copay support offered by the maker of your psoriasis treatment. You can also contact the drug manufacturer directly, as they will often advertise a copay program on the drug’s website.
GoodRx and similar websites can help you compare prices for your psoriasis treatment at different pharmacies. Costs may differ significantly between vendors in a single city.
Online pharmacies are sometimes less expensive than regular pharmacies. Contact your insurance company to see if they have a recommended online pharmacy that will help you save money.
Topical treatments pose a challenge for many people with psoriasis and other dermatological conditions. They can be messy and time-consuming to apply, which can cause people to use them inconsistently or to stop altogether.
People with skin conditions tend to use oral medications more consistently than topical ones. In a study of 322 people with chronic (ongoing) skin conditions cited in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 86 percent of oral prescriptions were filled — compared to 65 percent of topical treatments.
Consider reframing the process of applying psoriasis topicals. Instead of viewing it as another chore you need to do to manage your psoriasis, perhaps you can turn it into an enjoyable skin care ritual. You can try applying your topical treatment while listening to your favorite music or podcast. You can also use this time to apply any over-the-counter moisturizers that are part of your routine. Set aside the time needed for the treatments to absorb to read a book or watch a TV show.
Topical treatments come in a variety of textures — many are thick ointments. Some people find thicker, greasier formulations bothersome and thus may not use them consistently. If the texture of your topical is a problem, ask your doctor about a different formulation. A lighter lotion or foam may be available. Foams are particularly well-suited for scalp psoriasis.
Ultimately, if you find yourself unable to stick to a topical treatment routine, share your concerns with your dermatologist. They may be able to prescribe an oral treatment or an injected biologic treatment.
Part of the fun of travel is deviating from our standard routines, but lapsing on your medication during a trip can negatively affect your well-being. Whether you’re going for a quick weekend getaway or a long vacation, make a plan in advance to stick to your treatment routine.
The first step is to take stock of every medication you’ll need on your trip, including topicals, oral medications, and any injected medications. If you use an injected medication every few weeks, be sure to check your calendar to confirm whether you’ll need this medication during your trip.
Sticking to your medication routine while traveling may be easier if you bring some of the things you’re accustomed to using at home – for example, your favorite pill organizer.
Whether you’re traveling by car, train, or airplane, keep digital or physical copies of your prescriptions just in case you forget something or lose something on vacation.
Below are tips for traveling on an airplane with topical or oral medications:
Injected medications can be a little trickier to travel with than topical or oral medications. You’ll need to keep your biologic drug at the correct temperature and arrange for safe needle disposal.
Below are some tips for keeping your biologic medication at the correct temperature:
Below are some tips for disposing of needles while traveling:
Below are some tips for air travel with biologics:
Social support is critical to managing a chronic condition like psoriasis. In a review of 50 studies about treatment adherence among people with chronic illnesses, social support was associated with better compliance.
The review found the following types of support were particularly helpful:
Consider talking with your friends and family about the challenges of managing your psoriasis. They may be able to provide practical support that helps you better manage your health. Your loved ones may also relate to your challenges if they’re living with chronic health conditions — they may have a health concern they haven’t shared. You may be able to provide support to each other as you both work to care for yourself.
MyPsoriasisTeam can be another resource to support you in sticking to your treatment, controlling psoriasis flare-ups, and improving your overall health. Joining connects you with more than 113,000 members who can relate to your challenges, like avoiding psoriasis triggers and affording prescriptions.
Do you have tips for sticking with your psoriasis treatment plan? What challenges have you faced? Share your experience in the comments below or directly on MyPsoriasisTeam.