Flu season threat greater for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis on immunosuppressive drugs

People on biologic or systemic drugs should only receive inactivated vaccines

PORTLAND, Ore. (Oct. 21, 2013)—National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) Medical Board recommends that people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis only receive inactivated flu vaccines while on drugs that suppress the immune system. People should talk with their doctors about vaccinations before starting immunosuppressive treatments, such as biologic or systemic drugs, the medical board suggests. Read the flu recommendations »

The NPF Medical Board recommends that people with psoriasis—a chronic autoimmune disease that appears on the skin, affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans—and psoriatic arthritis—an inflammatory joint disease affecting up to 30 percent of psoriasis patients—on biologic (Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, Simponi or Stelara,) or systemic (cyclosporine or methotrexate) treatments take the following precautions:

  • Get vaccinated early. Biologic and systemic drugs suppress psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, but also interfere with parts of the immune system that fight off infection, making people more susceptible to the flu virus.
  • Receive only inactivated vaccines. Seasonal flu vaccines come in inactivated (given as a shot) and active forms (given as nasal spray). People taking medications that suppress the immune system should only receive inactivated flu vaccines.
  • Take more daily health precautions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding close contact with people who are sick, washing hands frequently and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth.

"People with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis should take extra precaution this flu season if they are taking immunosuppressive drugs. For most people, the flu is an annoying aspect of winter. But for people with compromised immune systems, it can be a much more serious threat," said Andy Robertson, Ph.D., chief scientific and medical officer of the National Psoriasis Foundation. "It's also important that each person discusses vaccinations with their doctor and keep their vaccines up to date."

According to the CDC, manufacturers have begun shipping seasonal flu vaccines, which should be in ample supply by October

The flu vaccine recommendation is part of a larger report issued by the National Psoriasis Foundation Medical Board that outlines its recommendations for vaccinations while on drugs that suppress the immune system.

The report states that keeping up to date with routine vaccinations would protect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis whose immune systems are compromised from biologic drugs. However, the NPF Medical Board notes that many adults with psoriasis are behind on vaccinations. Although inactivated vaccines are safe, they may not be as effective for people on biologics, the report finds.

View the full chart of vaccine recommendations »


About the National Psoriasis Foundation

Over the last 50 years, the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) has become the world’s leading nonprofit patient advocacy organization fighting for individuals with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. NPF leads this fight by driving efforts for a cure and improving the lives of the more than 8 million Americans affected by this chronic disease. To date, NPF has funded more than $15 million in research grants and fellowships, and to commemorate 50 years, NPF plans to raise an additional $2 million for early scientific career research programs in 2017 alone. Each year, NPF strives to support, educate and advocate on behalf of more individuals living with or caring for someone with the disease than ever before. As part of that effort, NPF established the Patient Navigation Center to offer personalized assistance to everyone with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Join our community today and help drive discovery and create community for all living with psoriatic disease.