Combining systemic retinoids with biologic agents for moderate to severe psoriasis

Elizabeth C.A. Smith, Christy Riddle, M. Alan Menter, Mark Lebwohl

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Background: Moderate to severe psoriasis, which is defined as psoriasis affecting more than 20% of the body surface area, often requires a combination of therapies to achieve remission. Although numerous data exist regarding the use of acitretin and biologic agent therapy alone for psoriasis, little is known about the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of acitretin combined with biologic agents. Methods: Fifteen patients with psoriasis treated with concomitant acitretin and a biologic agent were identified, and their charts were reviewed for response to therapy, additional therapy necessary for disease management, side-effects, and laboratory abnormalities whilst on combination therapy. The Institutional Review Board did not require approval for this chart review. Results: Twenty-nine per cent of patients showed clearance of psoriasis, 43% of patients showed an improvement of 90%, 14% showed an improvement of 75%, and 7.1% showed no change. During treatment with acitretin and biologic agent, five patients required no adjunctive treatment. Three patients were able to stop narrow-band ultraviolet-B (UV-B) therapy after an average of 2.33 months of combination therapy. Only one patient continued to require phototherapy (UV-B) in addition to the biologic agent. Three patients developed squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) whilst on combination therapy, but all patients had a previous history of SCC. One patient developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after 3 years of etanercept and acitretin, and the etanercept was discontinued. Conclusions: Acitretin combined with biologic agents offers a promising method of managing refractory psoriasis. More research is needed to determine the long-term safety and efficacy of this combination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-518
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Dermatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008


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