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Large increments in psoralen–ultraviolet A (PUVA) therapy are unsuitable for fair-skinned individuals with psoriasis


Dr Kirby Section of Dermatology, Hope Hospital, Stott Lane, Salford M6 8HD, U.K.


The ideal psoralen-ultraviolet A (PUVA) regimen for chronic plaque psoriasis has yet to be established. There are four components to a PUVA regimen: the dose of psoralen, the starting dose of UVA, the frequency of treatment and the incremental UVA dose protocol. Recent studies have been directed at trying to optimize the efficacy of PUVA while minimizing acute side-effects and the risk of cutaneous carcinogenesis, believed to be independently related to the cumulative dose of UVA and the total number of treatments. The British Photodermatology Group recommends two twice-weekly PUVA regimens: one starts with 50% of the minimal phototoxic dose (MPD) and uses weekly increments of 40%, 30%, 25%, 20%, 15%, 10% and 5% of the previous dose to a maximum of 14.5 J/cm2; the other starts with a fixed dose based on skin type and uses weekly dose increments of 40%, decreasing to 20% once erythema develops. We undertook a prospective randomized controlled trial comparing these regimens in 85 Irish patients. The clearance rate with the MPD regimen was lower than with the skin type regimen, 67.5% vs. 95% (< 0.05). The reasons for treatment failure were grade 3 erythema and severe PUVA itch. There was a trend suggesting that patients with skin types I and II, but not skin type III, required a higher cumulative UVA dose and fewer exposures to clear with the MPD regimen than the skin type regimen, although this did not reach statistical significance. Grades 2 or 3 erythema were very common in both treatment groups (52.5% of the skin type group and 45% of the MPD group). This is the third study to suggest that patients with skin types I and II receive a higher total UVA dose when the starting dose is 50–70% of the MPD (rather than 0.5 J/cm2 for skin type I and 1.0 J/cm2 for skin type II) and when large dose increments are used. We suggest that smaller dose increments should be used in patients with skin types I and II.