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Le méthotrexate contre le psoriasis.

Methotrexate and Psoriasis: What Should You Know?

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease, and its treatment can be either local or systemic. Methotrexate (MTX) is among the systemic treatment options for moderate to severe psoriasis. As a systemic solution, methotrexate has its advantages. There are several considerations for patients suffering from this disease. Learn more about this treatment in this article.

What is Methotrexate?

Methotrexate, also known as 4-amino-10-methylfolic acid, is a treatment used in cases of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Since the 1960s, it has been widely used to treat severe psoriasis. It exerts various actions, varying according to the dose used. Its anti-proliferative effect slows down the multiplication of cells. It is thus used in the treatment of psoriasis, where skin cells multiply excessively. Its anti-inflammatory action and its ability to modulate the immune response are also exploited to counter the chronic skin inflammation observed in psoriasis.

How does methotrexate work on psoriasis?

The action of methotrexate can be explained by its ability to inhibit the intracellular enzyme dihydrofolate reductase, reducing the supply of reduced folate cofactors necessary for the synthesis of nucleic acids and proteins, and thus directly interfering with epidermal cell division.

Another mechanism has also been suggested. A treatment with methotrexate would eliminate CD8+ T lymphocytes, which would result in suppressing the activity signal of macrophages. This would decrease the production of prostaglandins, which would affect the activation and proliferation of CD4+ T lymphocytes. Thus, by generally reducing the activity of T lymphocytes, this has the consequence of limiting the proliferation of keratinocytes, leading to the appearance of psoriasis symptoms.

What are the dosages to be adhered to?

Before beginning the treatment, the doctor must ensure that there are no contraindications. A blood test is performed to assess the functioning of the kidneys, liver, blood cells, and to screen for potential infections. For women of childbearing age, a pregnancy test is conducted. A chest X-ray is performed in certain cases.

If the results are normal, the treatment is prescribed in the form of tablets or subcutaneous injections, to be taken or administered once a week. The dose of methotrexate typically ranges from 7.5 to 25 mg per week, with an average of 15 mg per week. The tablets can be taken all at once or divided between morning and evening, on the specified day of the week for the treatment. They are swallowed during meals.

In order to monitor your tolerance to the treatment, blood tests are conducted after 7 days, then every 15 days during the first month, followed by once a month every 2 to 3 months. If necessary, your doctor can adjust the dose of methotrexate by increasing or decreasing it. In some cases, treatment monitoring may include regular examinations.

In the case of psoriasis, a chronic disease, the duration of treatment with methotrexate can range from several months to several years, as long as it is tolerated and effective. This is a suspension treatment that does not cure the disease but allows for control of its progression throughout the duration of the treatment.

What are the benefits of methotrexate treatment?

The results of the treatment vary from person to person, but in approximately 70% of cases, an improvement in psoriasis is observed. Some individuals may notice an improvement as early as the first month of treatment, but the maximum effect is typically achieved after about 3 to 4 months of treatment.

What are the contraindications and precautions to be taken?

There are certain contraindications to the use of methotrexate:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding.

It is crucial not to consider pregnancy during methotrexate treatment, in the month or ovulatory cycle following its cessation for women, or within 3 months for men. Pregnancy is strongly discouraged during treatment. If a pregnancy occurs, it is important to immediately stop the treatment and inform your doctor. Indeed, methotrexate is a teratogenic drug that can lead to fetal death, miscarriage, or congenital abnormalities. Similarly, breastfeeding is contraindicated during treatment as methotrexate can pass into breast milk and be toxic to the baby.

  • Use of other medications.

Some drug combinations are prohibited with methotrexate as they could potentially increase its concentration in the blood and render it toxic. Before taking a new medication, it is crucial to check with your doctor if it is compatible with methotrexate.

  • Vaccines.

Most vaccines can be administered during treatment with methotrexate, with the exception of "live" vaccines such as the yellow fever vaccine. Indeed, methotrexate is an immunosuppressant associated with a risk of severe infections. Vaccination in these patients could pose a risk of developing a disease. If necessary, live vaccines should be administered at least three weeks before starting the treatment.

Note: It is essential to maintain regular follow-ups with your doctor and dermatologist throughout the duration of the treatment, without forgetting to carry out the prescribed blood tests.

What are the adverse effects of treatment with methotrexate?

Adverse effects are rare, but it's important that you are informed about them. Among the possible adverse effects are:

  • A decrease in red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets.

  • A liver condition, manifesting in individuals with a liver weakened by alcohol consumption, overweight, or a history of viral infections.

  • Rarely, symptoms such as coughing, fever, or shortness of breath may occur.

  • Nausea and abdominal heaviness can occur, typically in a moderate manner.

  • Erosions resembling canker sores can form in the mouth or on the skin.

  • At times, one may experience feelings of fatigue or a decrease in libido.

Sources

WEINSTEIN G. D. & al. Cytotoxic and Immunologic Effects of Methotrexate in Psoriasis. The Society for Investigate Dermatology (1990).

BOFFA M. J. & al. Methotrexate for psoriasis. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology (1996).

KALB R. E. & al. Methotrexate and psoriasis: 2009 National Psoriasis Foundation Consensus Conference. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2009).

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