Psoriasis affects more than 8 million people and does not have a cure. Biologics and other treatments have been around for many years now and are effective for many patients at reducing symptoms, and for some, completely clearing their skin. However, many still suffer if these medications don’t work for them, or if they don’t have health insurance and/or the means to continually take these medications.
For patients facing these challenges, Clinical Research being done right here at Apex Dermatology may be the perfect solution for them.
Clinical Research offers advantages to participants such as free treatment, extra hands-on care from a full clinical team, a stipend for participation, and most importantly, helps move healthcare outcomes forward with new and more effective medications.
August is national psoriasis action month, so we wanted to bring in Dr. Garcia-Zuazaga himself, founder of Apex Dermatology, Mohs surgeon, and leader of the Clinical Research Center, to explain the importance of this research.
How is psoriasis treated now?
“Our providers across Apex are experts at treating psoriasis with the currently available treatments, many of which are highly effective. These include biologics like Humira, or a corticosteroid such as Clobetosol.”
Patients will typically be prescribed a medication at their initial appointment, and then come back for follow up visits to ensure their treatment plan is working for them.
What are the challenges that some patients face when it comes to treatments for psoriasis?
For some patients, especially with severe cases of psoriasis, these treatments are not effective enough. We want to be able to completely clear their skin because we know they are still suffering physically and often emotionally and mentally as well if the condition is not well-managed.
For others, an existing medication might work for them, but is out of reach due to lack of insurance coverage, or too high of cost.
What psoriasis studies is the Clinical Research team working on now?
We currently have four studies just for psoriasis, including:
- A specific medication’s impact on skin of color
- A new medication to target nail psoriasis
- New medication to clear general psoriasis
- A focused medication for palmoplantar psoriasis (on palms and/or soles of feet)
“All of these studies are beyond phase 1. We are usually in Phase 2-4 and are trialing mediations that are already shown to work.”
What can patients expect if they participate in Clinical Research at Apex?
Clinical trials are monitored for safety, timeline is provided up front, so you know exactly what to expect, and can schedule your visits in advance. Participants receive extra attentive care to their health and wellbeing.
“Participants will interact with their doctor and the clinical research coordinators who are experts at what they do. They will go to our regular Apex Dermatology clinics and their appointments will be just as comfortable as any appointment would be.”
Here are the typical steps a Clinical Research participant can expect:
- Screening: Appointment for the doctor to evaluate you and take bloodwork to see if you fit the criteria and qualify for the study
- Waiting period: When screening is complete, and you are approved as a participant, you will stop all current treatments for about a month
- Baseline visit: A fresh evaluation and lab work are done to establish the starting point
- Follow up appointments: Start treatment, and monitor progress closely on a pre-set schedule. This varies by study, but often lasts for 6 months to a year. Participants receive compensation for each visit, and the medication and visit is provided at no cost to them.
- Completion: Sometimes the drug companies we work with then offer open label extension–medication provided for a period of time, with monthly checkups. This means many participants receive additional treatment at no cost to them.
It’s important for patients to know that our studies are double blinded placebo-controlled studies, so there is a chance that you won’t receive the drug being tested. This can be discouraging, but it’s needed to complete the studies accurately, and the patients are still compensated and often given access to the drugs mid-way or at the end of their study if they are shown to be effective.
Why was launching Clinical Research important to you?
“I started Apex 11 years ago because I thought patients in Northeast Ohio deserved better dermatology care. Access is a common issue in dermatology, meaning it can be hard to find a dermatologist, and it’s even harder to see them quickly. It’s not uncommon to wait 6 months for an appointment. At Apex, we offer quick access to expert care, including same day appointments.
“The same philosophy extends to research. I am proud to bring these opportunities to patients in Northeast Ohio. Recently, we screened the very first person in the world for a new psoriasis medication. This is happening right here, and our community is benefitting from it.
“One of our current participants told us that he had tried everything for his psoriasis over the 30 years he’s suffered with it, and he had given up hope of ever feeling comfortable in his own skin. He heard of our research program here, and joined, and now has seen a dramatic change in his skin and is no longer in pain or suffering from ongoing embarrassment. This is what Apex is all about, transforming lives through healthy skin, and clinical research is just one more way we’re delivering on our purpose.”
What other studies are you currently recruiting for?
We are currently working on clinical research for atopic dermatitis (eczema), allergic contact dermatitis, and a variety of other skin conditions. If you are interested in participating, but don’t have a condition we’re currently recruiting for, you can still fill out the form and we can keep you on file and reach out to you if an opportunity arises.
Frustrated with psoriasis or another skin condition? Be part of the solution to find better treatments! To learn more about Clinical Research or to apply, visit https://www.apexskin.com/clinical-research/.
Dr. Garcia-Zuazaga graduated from Marquette University with a degree of Biomedical Engineering. In college he earned a prestigious National Science Foundation scholarship and served as President of the Latin American Student Association. From Milwaukee, he moved to Ames, Iowa, where he completed his Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. It was his work with artificial heart valves that led him to consider a career in medicine.
In 1995, Garcia-Zuazaga was commissioned in the United States Navy and enrolled in the Navy Health Profession Scholarship Program. In 1999, he graduated at the top 5% of his medical school class at Penn State and moved to DC to complete his Internship at the renowned National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
After Bethesda, Dr. Garcia-Zuazaga moved to Pensacola, Florida for Aerospace Medicine training with the Navy. He earned his “wings of gold” as a United States Flight Surgeon in 2001 and was the recipient of the prestigious Surgeon General’s Award. Following his training at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, Dr. Garcia-Zuazaga moved to the
Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, South Carolina where he was assigned as flight surgeon for the world-famous Crusaders (VMFA-122) squadron. As flight surgeon, he served as Medical Department head for his squadron and participated in several deployments all over the world. For his leadership and dedication to the Marines, Dr. Garcia was selected as Marines Forces Pacific (MARFORPAC) Operational Flight Surgeon of the Year.