How far have we come in the struggle to educate the public about psoriatic disease, discover causes and treatments, head off comorbidities and find a cure? As we approach World Psoriasis Day, let’s consider how much has changed in our lifetimes. (For this journey to the past we’ll use Eli Lilly’s excellent “History of Psoriasis Research.”)
The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) was created half a century ago, in 1967.
Back then, the president of the United States was Lyndon Johnson. The pope was Paul VI. The Sound of Music took home the Oscar for Best Picture. The Beatles’ Revolver was the top-selling album.
And hardly anyone talked about psoriasis.
Just 50 years ago, the woman who went on to found NPF, Beverly Foster, wouldn’t leave her house because of her severe psoriasis. People who didn’t have it didn’t understand it. There were no organizations set up to help her and people like her. There was nothing in this country and not much elsewhere. (The Psoriasis Association in the United Kingdom didn’t appear until 1968.) This is why she and her husband created their own group.
Assuming you had a knowledgeable doctor who could guide you, you had few treatment choices back in 1966. Coal tar (or anthralin) and ultraviolet light was one method, known as the Goeckerman treatment; the application consumed lengthy periods of time and usually required a stay in a hospital. There were topical steroids, though they weren’t always as effective as the steroids available today.
Vitamin D and vitamin A were available, taken orally or as topicals. Vitamin A had some serious side effects. There were no retinoids, the synthetic substitutes for Vitamin A. There were no biologics. There were no nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Methotrexate was being used to treat other conditions; it wasn’t approved for the treatment of psoriasis in the U.S. until 1972.
There was also the original psoriasis treatment: plain old sunlight. In the 1950s, the novelist John Updike, who had psoriasis, moved his young family from Manhattan to the tiny seaside town of Ipswich, Mass. One of his reasons for the move was the nearby beach. Whenever it was sunny, Updike spent part of his day there to treat his skin, per his doctor’s orders.
Back to the future
It’s a different ballgame here in 2015, where organizations around the world advocate on behalf of the estimated 125 million people with psoriatic disease. Our knowledge of psoriatic disease and comorbidities has skyrocketed. People regularly club together to share knowledge, help raise funds and make their voices heard.
We should congratulate ourselves on the progress we’ve made, but we should also keep in mind that there’s much more work to do. On World Psoriasis Day, NPF invites you to join us as we continue our journey toward more research, more effective treatments, a better quality of life and, ultimately, a cure.
Driving discovery, creating community
For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.