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Enbrel lowers cardiovascular disease risk in study

Melissa Leavitt

You may already know that treating psoriasis can also help lower risk for cardiovascular disease. Now a new study helps explain why some treatments are better than others at reducing that risk.

Past research indicates that certain psoriasis medications effectively address cardiovascular risk factors, a comorbidity associated with psoriasis.A team of researchers recently compared the biologic medication Enbrel (etanercept) with UVB phototherapy to further examine the impact of different medications on cardiovascular health.

Their study divided patients into two treatment groups, measuring the blood levels of cardiovascular risk markers before and after therapy. Both treatment groups experienced improvement in their psoriasis. The 20 patients who took Enbrel also experienced a reduction in cardiovascular risk markers—but the 21 patients who underwent UVB therapy did not.

These results could be explained by the different ways the two treatments target inflammation, said Dr. Charlotta Enerbäck, a co-author of the study.

"The systemic inflammation in psoriasis leads to increased cardiovascular risk," Enerbäck said. Enbrel treats psoriasis by targeting a protein that drives systemic inflammation.

But, as this study suggests, UVB treatment may only target local inflammation in the skin.

"UV light only penetrates into the outer parts of the skin and may therefore not reach the systemic inflammation," Enerbäck explained. "This is actually the first study to demonstrate that UV treatment does not reach the systemic inflammation, which seems to persist although the skin is healed."

The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, highlights the importance of treating systemic inflammation in people with psoriasis, Enerbäck said.

"Many guidelines suggest that UV treatment should be evaluated before taking systemic treatment into consideration," she said. "Our study indicates that this might not be optimal for the group of patients with an increased cardiovascular risk."

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