Psoriasis oral medication: Types, uses, and side effects

An estimated 25 percent of all people with psoriasis have moderate or severe psoriasis. Many of these people require oral medication or phototherapy.

This article gives an overview of the different types of oral medication, their uses, and their possible side effects.


Oral medications for psoriasis are a type of systemic medication. This means that instead of just responding to the symptoms of psoriasis, they work throughout the body, trying to treat the underlying causes of psoriasis.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which means a person’s immune system is overactive and attacks healthy skin cells. Systemic medication aims to stop this autoimmune response from happening.

Although oral medications are not a cure, they are more effective than topical lotions at encouraging psoriasis to go into remission. Remission is when a person has few or no symptoms.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), some systemic medications for psoriasis include:

  • methotrexate
  • cyclosporine
  • apremilast

Fumaric acid esters are another type of drug available in some European countries.

Biological drugs, or biologics, can also treat moderate to severe psoriasis.

These are a type of systemic medication a person receives through injections.

Doctors usually prescribe biologics only if other treatments have not worked.

Biological drugs are a very effective form of treatment, as approximately 70 percent of people see their psoriasis symptoms improve.

According to the NPF, common side effects for biologics include:

  • respiratory infections
  • flu-like symptoms
  • injection site reactions

Rarer side effects include:

  • nervous system disorders
  • blood disorders
  • cancers

Biologics are not suitable for people who have or have had:

  • kidney or liver failure
  • cancer
  • multiple sclerosis, or a family member who has it
  • hepatitis
  • tuberculosis
  • heart failure
  • serious infection

When to see a doctor

Although oral medication for psoriasis can cause more side effects than topical medicines, they can also be more effective at encouraging a person’s psoriasis to go into remission.

If anyone who is taking any form of medication experiences adverse side effects, they should speak to their doctor. A doctor may be able to recommend ways to reduce or control side effects, or may change the type of medication a person is taking.

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