Improving Quality of Life in Atopic Dermatitis With Targeted Therapies - Episode 15

Pearls for Atopic Dermatitis Management

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Experts in dermatology share practice pearls and takeaways for treatment of atopic dermatitis.

Linda Stein Gold, MD: We’ve had a great conversation about treating atopic dermatitis. We all see a lot of patients. What I’d like to do is ask each of you: In your practice in dealing with these patients, do you have some kernels of truth that you’ve relied on that have helped set your patients up for success, or something you can give our audience that they can take back and utilize to have the best possible outcomes? Matt, I’m going to start with you.

Matthew Zirwas, MD: Linda, I’m going to give you the spiel that I give a patient once I’ve gotten through disease education and we’re now selecting therapy. I’m a believer that setting them up for success means shared decision-making so that they’re not taking what I think they should be on, they’re taking what they think they should be on. It can be really simple. I believe that shared decision-making needs to be really simple: 2 options, at most 3 bullet points per option.

Here’s my spiel: “Luckily for you, we have great options now, they’re not steroids, you’re going to stay on them long term. I’m going to give you some choices, and you’re going to tell me which one sounds better. First, we can treat you with a pill. It’s going to start working in 2 or 3 days, but it does weaken your immune system. Or we could give you a shot that starts working in a week or two but does not weaken your immune system. You have to keep giving yourself a shot every 2 weeks or once a month. So again, a pill works that in a couple days, no shots but weakens your immune system, or a shot every 2 weeks that starts working in a week or two and does not weaken your immune system. Which one sounds better to you?”

Most patients have a very clear either, “I couldn’t imagine giving myself a shot” or “I wouldn’t want to do anything that might weaken my immune system.” If they say pill, then I’m going to talk about the boxed warning. “I do have to tell you it’s going to have some things that sound really scary.” The advice I have for everybody is when you’re talking about the boxed warning, don’t start with heart attack, stroke, death, and cancer. Start with, “Some things sound really scary. The data we have about this medication haven’t shown an increased rate of these things. But the FDA wants you to know about them because a different medication used in people who don’t have eczema that’s distantly related to this medication did slightly increase the chances of these scary things. But again, for this medication, none of the information we have about it has shown an increased rate.”

I do want you guys to know and our viewers, I didn’t say it doesn’t increase the rate. I said the information we have has not shown any increased rate. I said scary things a couple of times. I’ve said distantly related medication, people who don’t have eczema. Then I say, “The scary things, just so you’re not surprised when you get it, are things like heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots, and cancer. But again, all the information we have about this medication has not actually shown an increased rate of those things happening.” That makes people more comfortable with the JAK [inhibitors], and I don’t feel like I’ve said anything inaccurate. If that was taped and played in court, everything I said was right, and I stand behind everything I said. My pearl is shared decision-making and how I talk about the JAK boxed warnings.

Linda Stein Gold, MD: Great. Peter, what are your thoughts?

Peter A. Lio, MD: It makes me think about a quote that is often attributed to Confucius. It might be apocryphal because people attribute a lot of quotes to Confucius. But it’s, “Because the newer treatments are good, it does not follow that the old ones were bad. For if our worshipful and honorable ancestors had not recovered from their ailments, you and I would not be here today.” But they are really nice, and to have some new treatments and be able to talk about these with our patients has changed the game. I think this is the beginning of a new era in atopic dermatitis. We can now promise things and deliver in a way that we’ve never been able to before. I’m really excited about this, and also excited to see where it’s going.

Linda Stein Gold, MD: Great. Ali?

Alexandra Golant, MD: I would add that the patients who present to our office who are most undertreated are still those moderate patients. I would say my pearl would be looking, as we’ve all said today, at the patient holistically, not just the BSA [body surface area] of that patient on one day and time but considering other factors like the impact of itch. Sometimes I look at something called the BSA of itch, where you’re saying, “Your skin disease is 5% today, but where are you itchy? How is this impacting your life?” The moderate patients are as impacted quality of life-wise by their disease as our severe patients, if you look at the studies. So, make sure you are presenting your options.

I like what Aaron said, even when you have a mild patient in the office, I often say, “You look good today, but I want to show you the runway, which is very different than it was 5 or 10 years ago. If your disease control is to change, if your satisfaction about your treatment or something about your life is to change, if your disease is to change in some ways, I want you to know that other treatments exist.” Because for so many years for these patients, they didn’t. Still, I think there’s lack of awareness of our advanced therapies for atopic dermatitis. It’s capturing the moderate patients, it’s getting all of our patients to higher levels of disease control. I agree with Peter, I feel so lucky to take care of these patients in the year 2023, and I think we’ll only feel that amplified in the years to come.

Linda Stein Gold, MD: This has been a fantastic discussion. I think we’ve all learned from each other. I want to thank each of you for this informative discussion. And I want to thank you all for watching this HCPLive® Peer Exchange. If you’ve enjoyed the content, please subscribe to our e-newsletters to receive upcoming peer exchanges and other great content right in your inbox. Thanks so much.

Transcript edited for clarity