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A $970 Bottle of Shampoo for Scalp Psoriasis?

Nancy Alpert figured out how to use her shampoo as a symbol of much needed change in health care.

Nancy and Don Alpert met in San Francisco in the 1990s. They have since lived in Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and are now back in California. Everywhere they have called home, they have brought with them their love of family, community and baseball, and one thing they would have preferred to leave behind: Nancy’s psoriasis.

Psoriasis in the Dark Ages

Nancy Alpert was diagnosed with plaque psoriasis when she was 23, but she may have had it in her senior year in high school. “I thought I had dandruff,” she says. “My friends would brush flakes off my shoulders.” Her “dandruff” got worse in her 20s, possibly because she smoked. “I learned at the NPF Research Symposium in 2017 that smoking is a possible trigger for psoriasis.”

She kept going to a dermatologist to ask about the odd “spots” on her skin, and he kept telling her she had ringworm. This was the 1970s, and the best this dermatologist could do for her was to suggest a cortisone cream.

When she was 23, Alpert was visiting her primary care physician for a different reason. She happened to be wearing shorts. The doctor looked at her bare legs and says, “Oh, you have psoriasis.” Then he touched one of her spots. “Why are you touching it?” Alpert remembers asking him. “I didn’t know that psoriasis wasn’t contagious!”

She had a diagnosis, but she didn’t have an effective treatment. “My only real treatment choices back then were steroids or acne meds,” she says. “My skin condition wasn’t what I would’ve liked, but it was livable.” Since the 1990s, she’s treated her psoriasis with various non-steroidal prescription topicals.

Alpert’s psoriasis appears on her shins and ankles, the back of her neck, her elbows, and one ear – what she calls the “out-of-the-way places.” She wonders if she might be a candidate for a biologic.

An Easy Decision

The Alperts support food banks in their new home in Sacramento and organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and Habitat for Humanity.

“These problems affect not just individuals, but also society,” Alpert says. “Healthy people make healthy communities, healthy communities make healthy cities, and so on. We try to see the bigger value of whatever contribution we can make.”

Nancy Alpert’s philanthropic instinct was evident even when she was a young baseball fanatic waiting outside Candlestick Park in San Francisco to meet the Giants’ slugging first baseman, Willie McCovey. It was a singular moment for the starstruck fan. “I remember the long line and the moment I met him. He signed my baseball cap, but I eventually gave the cap away to someone who loved him even more.”

Getting involved with NPF was a simple choice. Alpert has been an NPF member since 2003. But she didn’t stop there. NPF has given her a way to get involved in her own personal cause. “I believe we all need to feel that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s important to our individual well-being. We’re all connected,” she says.

She attended the 2018 NPF Advocacy Day before the California State Assembly. “I was able to stand up before our representatives and show them my $970 bottle of shampoo for my scalp psoriasis,” she says. “That’s what I pay, and I have great health insurance.”

In addition to their lifetime NPF membership, the Alperts have taken the further step of joining the NPF Ben Isenberg Legacy Society. They’re not just planning for their future – they’re planning for a future that includes a cure for psoriatic disease.

“Contributing to an organization like NPF is efficient,” Alpert says. “They see where the needs are when we can’t. They take a holistic view of the community.”

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