TV ads for psoriasis and eczema medications portray few people of color

September 15, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- Commercials from pharmaceutical companies advertising medication to treat psoriasis and eczema lack people from racial and ethnic minorities, according to research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The under-representation of people of color in these ads is disproportional to the diverse population of patients living with these conditions. What’s more, among all the people who could benefit from the most effective psoriasis or eczema medications, non-white patients are less likely to receive them. The research, which was published today in the journal Cutis, suggests that the low numbers of minorities in pharmaceutical ads may play a role in the treatment disparities that are seen in real life.

After watching major TV networks from 5:00 to 11:00 pm over 14 consecutive days, researchers at Penn spotted 40 commercials for psoriasis or eczema medication. In them, there were 81 characters portrayed as having psoriasis and 80 characters portrayed as having eczema. Ninety-three percent of the characters in the psoriasis commercials appeared to be white, and 54 percent of the characters in the eczema commercial appeared to be white.

“While greater representation of white adults in psoriasis commercials reflects our current understanding that psoriasis is most common among white people, psoriasis is still a common skin condition among other races and ethnicities that are not currently well-represented in the ads,” said senior author Junko Takeshita, MD, PhD, MSCE, an assistant professor of Dermatology and Epidemiology. “In the case of eczema, it is especially problematic that white children are mostly shown considering that the rates of eczema are higher among Black children.”

The researchers decided to investigate representation in television ads for these dermatologic medications in order to assess whether direct-to-consumer advertising could be playing a part in more white patients receiving pharmaceutical treatments for both psoriasis and eczema.

“There is still a lot of speculation around why Black patients and those of other non-white racial and ethnic backgrounds are less likely to be treated for psoriasis or eczema with the most effective medications,” said lead author Alexis Holmes, BA, a fourth-year medical student in the Perelman School of Medicine. “We don’t know if clinicians are less likely to offer the medications to their non-white patients, if patients are not aware that the medications could work for them and are therefore not asking their clinicians about the drugs, or if there are other issues like accessibility. There are likely multiple variables affecting the rates of prescription among non-white patients. Considering the wide reach that direct-to-consumer ads have among the general public, we thought that they were an important source of information to study.”

While there’s no treatment that can cure eczema or psoriasis, medication for the conditions can bring relief to patients, so there’s value in increasing the number of patients who have access to the medications and understand how the medications can be helpful. When left untreated, psoriasis and eczema can cause severe itching, pain, and irritation. Both conditions are also linked with other major medical issues such as inflammation of the joints in the case of psoriasis and asthma in the case of eczema.

“It’s critical that patients have information about their condition and the possible ways that their symptoms can be managed,” Holmes said. “We hope our research encourages advertisers to not just sell their respective products but ensure that advertisers are representing the wide-spectrum of individuals who would benefit from use of said products.”

The research should also urge clinicians to be more aware of the potential impact that the ads could have on their own practice and unconscious biases so as not to further disadvantage those patients who may not see themselves in an ad for the latest medication.

“Clinicians are tasked with the challenge of getting as much information as they can from their patients in order to guide how they counsel and educate their patients, in return, within a visit that is typically too short,” Takeshita said. “If clinicians recognize that these ads may contribute to gaps in knowledge about available treatments among racial and ethnic minorities, they can play an important role in filling these gaps by spending a few extra minutes discussing treatments with these patients.”

Other Penn co-authors are Cheyenne Williams, Shiyu Wang, and Frances Barg.

The research was supported by the Dermatology Foundation Diversity Research Supplement Award.

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Related Psoriasis Articles from Brightsurf:

Most psoriasis patients taking immunosuppressants survive COVID-19
Patients with psoriasis who are taking drugs that affect their immune system have high rates of survival from COVID-19.

Getting under the skin of psoriasis
Psoriasis afflicts millions of people worldwide, but treatments are limited to small molecules like steroids, which can cause skin thinning and lose their effectiveness over time.

Psoriasis patients' mental health is more than skin-deep
A new study from Umeå University, Sweden, shows that other somatic diseases have even more impact on patients' mental health than their skin symptoms, highlighting the importance of holistic patient care.

Psoriasis: Towards a novel therapeutic approach
Researchers at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the Department of Dermatology of the Erasme hospital uncover the importance of VEGFA signaling in the epidermis to mediate psoriasis development.

Insights into psoriasis suggest a new treatment target
Investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute have uncovered a novel pathway that may explain why skin thickens in psoriasis and suggests new strategies for developing therapies for the condition.

Psoriasis onset determines if psoriatic arthritis patients develop arthritis or psoriasis first
In a new study presented at the 2019 ACR/ARP Annual Meeting, researchers found the age of psoriasis onset determines whether arthritis or psoriasis starts first in people with psoriatic arthritis.

Study: Some biologic treatments for psoriasis may be safer for patients
In the largest study of its kind, Erica D. Dommasch, M.D., M.P.H., a dermatologist in the Department of Dermatology at BIDMC, and colleagues found a decreased risk of infection in patients with psoriasis using some of the newer, more targeted medications compared to those taking methotrexate, a drug widely used since the 1960s as a first line treatment for moderate-to-severe psoriasis.

Higher weight increases risk of psoriasis
The higher a person's BMI, the greater the chance of getting psoriasis.

Lipid that aids normal skin turnover may help psoriasis
Topical application of the lipid phosphatidylglycerol, or PG, on a mouse model of psoriasis reduced inflammation as well as characteristic, raised skin lesions, they report in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

New insight into the mechanism of the drug against sclerosis and psoriasis
A multidisciplinary research team at Aarhus University has provided fundamental new insight into the mechanism of the medical drug dimethyl fumarate, which is the active component of important treatments for multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.

Read More: Psoriasis News and Psoriasis Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to