By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
The incessant itching and burning are only the beginning of the nightmare.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) — a catchall phrase for any unexplained eczema, skin irritation or breakout of dry and scaly patches — can take a terrible psychological toll on its victims, leaving their skin red and inflamed and making them feel insecure in public.
And while the condition is not contagious, atopic dermatitis patients often feel ostracized and isolated from society because of their unsightly lesions and scabs.
In fact, according to a recent study conducted Colegio Ibero-Latinoamericano de Dermatología (CILAD), in conjunction with the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), more than 60 percent of atopic dermatitis patients suffer from depression and more than 90 percent suffer from anxiety related to their condition.
And while special soaps, creams and gels can help to reduce the symptoms of atopic dermatology, Juan Carlos García Rodríguez, one of the medical researchers involved in that study, said that of the roughly 9 million Mexicans with the condition, only about 3 million have their AD under control.
“In many cases, the condition is so bad that victims miss work or school because they are so self.conscious of their conditions that they stay home,” García Rodríguez said during a medical conference on AD sponsored by the transnational pharmaceutical corporation Sanofi Genzyme.
“While most patients will respond well to topical treatments, more extreme cases require advanced medical intervention,” added Nora Hilda Segura Méndez, head of the allergy and immunology department of Mexico’s esteemed Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI, who also participated in the conference.
One new medication developed to treat the condition, Dupilumab, produced by Sanofi Genzyme, has proven effective in 80 percent of severe AD patients.
The drug, which is injected weekly, has dramatically reduced skin irritations and breakouts in most patients, and is well tolerated with few side effects.
However, the cost of the new treatment is high, and is not generally covered by medical insurance, making it unaffordable for many patients.
“It is hard to put a price tag on a person’s psychological wellbeing,” said Sanofi Genzyme general director Mauricio Guizar.
“Hopefully, more insurance companies will cover this treatment in the future.”