Dermatologist says psoriasis sufferers 'treated as lepers'

While most people think about the "heartbreak of psoriasis" whenever they hear about the immune disorder, Dr. Kim Papp says the ailment is no laughing matter.

Skin experts presenting breakthrough new treatment in Saskatoon this week

Dermatologists from across Canada are gathering in Saskatoon this week.

Many people think about the "heartbreak of psoriasis" whenever they hear about the immune disorder, and Dr. Kim Papp agrees the ailment is no laughing matter.

Papp and leading dermatologists from across the country have gathered in Saskatoon for the Canadian Dermatology Association's annual conference.

"It's a huge burden," said Papp, referring to the people who suffer the most extreme version of the condition. "These people are seen and treated as lepers. I've seen it myself, where people have shied away or shunned a person with psoriasis, simply because they're frightened. They're afraid. They don't understand it."

A new drug called Taltz may be the answer. Papp was one of the principal investigators of the drug, and says a huge number of patients respond favourably to the drug.

"In the good old days, we were talking about 20 per cent, maybe 30 per cent of patients receiving high levels of response," he said. "Now we're talking 60, 70, 80 per cent, 90 per cent levels of response. And [patients] appeared to maintain that response over several years."

Papp described psoriasis as a very complex issue. The immune system disorder creates thick scaly plaques on the skin, and can lead to everything from arthritis to high cholesterol.

He said the new drug could be a game-changer for psoriasis sufferers.

"We're constantly striving to find new therapies that are better; that are safer; that are more effective, because this is a disease that is life-long," he said. "It's not something that you treat for a few weeks and it's gone. You need to treat this for the better part of a person's life.

Dermatologists will also be focusing on skin cancer — a growing problem seen in more and more elderly people.

The conference wraps up on Saturday.