A Vitamin A "Drug" for Psoriasis:
Soriatane (acetretin) is a laboratory derivative of vitamin A (retinoic acid), a class of drugs known as retinoids. Doctors have known that megadoses of vitamin A can minimize thickness and scaliness of the skin in psoriasis. One topical retinoid for psoriasis is Tazorac.
Unfortunately, the systemic doses of vitamin A needed to treat psoriasis are very toxic and can cause liver damage and death. Soriatane reduces (but does not eliminate) the unwanted toxicity of vitamin A while enhancing the desirable effects on abnormally thick and scaly skin. The result is a strong and effective oral psoriasis treatment.
Who Should Take This Drug?:
Soriatane is a treatment option for persons with severe psoriasis, for example when it involves greater than 10% of the body's surface area. It is also effective for another severe type of psoriasis called pustular psoriasis.
Which Patients Should Avoid This Drug?:
Soriatane is not recommended for women who may become pregnant because it can cause severe birth defects. The risk of birth defects lasts may years after stopping the drug. For this reason, the drug is mainly used in men and post-menopausal women (or women who have undergone surgical sterilization).
What are the Side Effects of Soriatane?:
There are some bothersome side effects such as dry skin and lips that are routinely seen with the use of Soriatane. Other side effects such as joint pain and hair loss are less frequent. More serious side effects such as increased blood lipids or abnormal liver function blood tests may require discontinuation of treatment. Patients using Soriatane should not donate blood since this blood could end up being used in a pregnant patient.