Drs Keegan and Cameron discuss patient-specific considerations for selecting optimal atopic dermatitis treatment strategies.
Casey Butrus, PharmD: Dr Keegan, what are some patient-specific characteristics that you consider when you’re choosing an agent or a regimen for atopic dermatitis?
Brian Keegan, MD, PhD: One of the first criteria one would want to think about is what’s the age of the patient? How severe is their condition? What have they tried before, etc.? Things like that are all important criteria, and they can range from it’s the first time a patient’s ever come in and they just need some education about what things can be helpful, and what things they should be staying away from to here are topical medicines to try, if this is just going to be intermittent, and let me know how things go to I’ve already failed this and I failed that before to the I come with a grocery bag full of tubes and creams that have a variety of prescriptions that are inside of them and a whole litany of over-the-counter medicines. Then putting the bottles in my face, “Is this one OK? Is this one OK?” Me just trying to be able to move through the conversation with them in order to get down to the nuts and bolts of what’s going on. There’s definitely a range of patients and a range of patient ages.
Then you just mentioned, we were just discussing the concept of killing 2 birds with 1 stone. So what other concurrent medical conditions do they have that they might potentially benefit from? They make a decision, back again, Dupixent [dupilumab], and someone who has asthma and atopic dermatitis, can they benefit from 1 medicine that will treat both things? Both from the simplicity for the patient, cost for the insurance company, and the mitigation of risk from the perspective of prescribing the medicines vs maybe 2 medicines where we don’t always know what the risk is when we’re combining those 2 medicines together. We just have theoretical concepts of how it might work, so that may be criteria. And then, as I mentioned before, sometimes one of the biggest challenges that patients have is they say they want something, but they really want to get better, and they may sidestep us and say that they want something else or, “I’d like just this type of a medicine because my friend told me this cream is really great.” You look at it and you’re like, “But you’ve got 3 tubes of it already in that grocery bag there that you’ve given me, and that’s really not going to make a lot of progress for you.” So sometimes what buy-in can you get from patients?
I don’t want to say that I always let them make the decision about what they’re going to give, but I’ve had plenty of patients that come in and say, “My sister takes this and she’s doing great. My aunt is on this medicine and doing great,” and if I have 3 or 4 medicines in my mind that are potentials, and they lock in on 1 of them and have a positive experience before they’ve even come in the door to me, that might be enough to try, for me to help them get over the hump of getting started on a medicine, whether it’s topic or systemic. Whatever it can take to help them get onto that next step and get better would be something that I would latch on to and use to my advantage as well too. So those are a couple of them. I’m sure Dr Cameron has a few more strategies or thoughts.
Michael Cameron, MD, FAAD: I thought that was really well said. I think that clearly a patient’s perception before they come in the office is huge. There’s a reason why…
Brian Keegan, MD, PhD: What commercial did you see on TV last night?
Michael Cameron, MD, FAAD: There’s a reason why direct-to-consumer advertising plays such an important role still. And so clearly, if there are a couple of good options, patient satisfaction is always a priority for me as well as building trust. If they come in and they want to try therapy, if I let them try that therapy, if it doesn’t work, they trust me even more, and so it’s all about just building that physician-patient relationship. In terms of your thinking about which treatments, I completely agree. I think that a lot of times we have several good options now, which is great.
Brian Keegan, MD, PhD: Jumping back on that direct-to-consumer advertising, I think one of the things that we should all recognize is that all these medicines that we’ve talked about today are made-up words. Opzelura [ruxolitinib], Dupixent, dupilumab, these are all made-up words, and we in healthcare are really used to using those made-up words and they make up our own language. We use a lot of made-up words all day long, and patients, when they hear those made-up words in the commercials, they can’t always differentiate them, so they may come to me sometimes with concern.
“I want to put you on Dupixent,” and they’ll say, “I don’t want to go on that. I heard that I’m going to have a heart attack and get cancer.” And I love it when they tell me what they’re thinking because then I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh, that’s not actually anywhere in the package insert and nothing that we have to be concerned about.” But when they voice their concerns for maybe another commercial that they’ve heard and aren’t really sure of what that medicine is, we can help them to navigate that foreign language that is medicine.
Transcript edited for clarity.