Scottish researchers published a new meta-analysis of the medical literature evaluating whether the medication methotrexate is safe and effective for treating psoriasis. The research report, “Safety and Efficacy of Methotrexate in Psoriasis: A Meta-Analysis of Published Trials,” appeared in the journal PLoS One.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease, which means the immune system is overactive. It triggers a skin rash, but can also affect the nails or joints, causing excessive cells to build up.
Methotrexate is a medication that suppresses the immune system. It is used to treat several types of cancer, but can also treat psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. Methotrexate brand names include Trexall and Rasuvo.
The researchers, led by Jonathan West of the University of Dundee, College of Medicine, Dentistry, and Nursing in Dundee, Scotland, identified 11 studies evaluating methotrexate for psoriasis.
Although physicians and patients have used methotrexate for more than 50 years for psoriasis, there is limited data on its actual efficacy and safety. Based on these studies, the scientists estimated that 45.2 percent of study subjects experienced clinically meaningful relief of psoriasis symptoms by weeks 12 or 16. The investigators measured adverse events that limited methotrexate treatment in 6.9 percent of the study participants.
Based on their research, the study investigators compiled an easy-to-use form for patients to fill out, to enable further study of methotrexate for psoriasis in real-world clinical settings.
The current meta-analysis is an example of how evidence for the use of an established medication, one that is unlikely to be studied further, can be compiled.
In their study report, the investigators concluded: “Compared to biologics, only minimal evidence is available on treatment efficacy of methotrexate in psoriasis. Since this is unlikely to change, given funding constraints for clinical trials, real-world data, although inherently fuzzy, incomplete, and inevitably less well documented, are the sole source for understanding the performance of drugs such as methotrexate in their intended use, e.g. longterm.”
Studies such as this one, which compile existing available data, can aid in the further understanding of medications that are commonly used. The authors also have set the groundwork for the collection of data in the clinical setting, another approach that can facilitate scientific assessment of already-approved medications.