OpzeluraTM is a relatively new medication, receiving FDA approval in 2021 as the first topical treatment of its kind for atopic dermatitis (eczema). It is also prescribed for nonsegmental vitiligo. The cream contains an immunosuppressant JAK inhibitor and may be effective for those who haven’t responded or who have become nonresponsive to other types of eczema or vitiligo treatment.
Since OpzeluraTM is a topical cream, it may be a better choice than other JAK inhibitors for those who are afraid of needles or have a difficult time complying with oral medications. Patients can apply the cream to their skin up to twice each day.
Clinical trials showed that 53.8% of teens and adults with eczema who used OpzeluraTM experienced clear skin after 8 weeks, compared to 15.1% of a control group receiving a non-medicated placebo cream.
Disadvantages or Contraindications
OpzeluraTM is only recommended for patients 12 years old and older. You should not use OpzeluraTM in conjunction with other biologics, immunosuppressants, or JAK inhibitors. One tube of OpzeluraTM cream can cost approximately $2100 without insurance coverage.
When the FDA approved OpzeluraTM, it also issued a black-box warning – due to its severe potential side effects. It may lower your immune response to infection resulting in serious infections, increase your risk of certain cancers, increase your risk of major cardiovascular events. It can increase the incidence of blood clots, low blood cell counts, and higher cholesterol levels.
Our Recommendation: Use Caution and Conservatism
With any chronic health condition, a conservative care approach is best. What does that mean? It means working with your healthcare professional to find the root cause of your condition and then treating it with interventions that are the least intrusive, least damaging, but still provide the best results. More invasive and risky treatments, like high-risk pharmaceutical treatments, should only be contemplated when all other treatments have failed and only after all pros and cons have been carefully considered.
Unfortunately, for many patients with skin conditions, the available choices of prescription drugs often fail the conservative care test. Their side effects can be extreme, compromising your health in other areas. They can be cost-prohibitive, even with insurance. Worst of all, they typically manage or mask the symptoms of eczema, TSW, acne, or psoriasis versus treating the root cause. This means you will likely need to use these pharmaceuticals continuously.
So, if you have tried everything to no avail and find yourself at the crossroads on whether or not to embark on a new drug therapy, we offer one other alternative to consider that is safer: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal medicine.
What TCM Can Do
TCM not only reduces the symptoms of eczema for many patients, but it also treats the root cause and brings the whole health of patients back into balance so they can experience their healthy natural skin again. It has no negative side effects and provides results that last even after cessation of treatment, with no withdrawal symptoms.
Positive Side Effects with TCM?
The “side effects” of herbal medicine are actually very positive. Herbal medicine dermatology patients report that other health issues (insomnia, digestion, allergies, PMS, and more) have concurrently improved with treatment. This is because when we take into consideration every system that contributes to the skin, instead of just focusing on the surface skin symptom, we treat the whole body. Therefore, it makes sense that other body functions would improve as well.
The other positive aspect of herbal medicine treatment is that its goal is returning the skin to normal function so that you can stop all treatment and maintain your healthy natural skin without assistance. TCM is interested in condition resolution, not symptom management.
Protect Your Long-Term Health
If you’ve struggled with eczema for a long time, it can be tempting to reach for anything that promises instant relief. However, your long-term health and well-being are priceless beyond measure. You owe it to yourself to consult with more than one professional before embarking on a high-risk pharmaceutical therapy if your life is not at stake.
And if you are currently on any prescription drugs to manage your skin and are wondering if it’s the right long-term solution for you, know that it’s possible to wean off your prescription therapy safely, and substitute more natural therapies that may deliver similar or even better results.
There are lots of choices and every day, there are more! We hope that sharing the facts about new eczema drugs will help you make a choice that is best for you on every level.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.