A new oral medication is now available for treating moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. Deucravacitinib is a once-daily prescription oral medication used to treat the condition. You don’t need injections, and you don’t need to get it administered at a doctor’s office.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that shows up as scaling on the skin’s surface and causes symptoms like itchiness, darkened or red skin, soreness, and swollen and painful joints. Around 7.5 million American adults ages 20 and older have psoriasis.

Currently, there’s no cure for psoriasis. Those living with moderate to severe symptoms may be prescribed systemic medications, which can cause severe side effects.

In September 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved deucravacitinib (Sotyktu), which belongs to a class of medication known as tyrosine kinase 2 (TYK2) inhibitor, to treat adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.

Clinical trials demonstrated that this oral medication is more effective than currently available oral medications in helping to clear or mostly clear psoriasis plaques. It also has fewer adverse side effects than older medications.

Deucravacitinib is a once-daily prescription oral medication used to treat plaque psoriasis. You don’t need injections, and you don’t need to get it administered at a doctor’s office.

The medication currently only comes as a 6-milligram (mg) tablet taken once per day. There’s no variation in strength. You may take it with or without food.

If you have moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, it can effectively clear or nearly clear your skin.

Currently, only the brand name medication Sotyktu is available. No generic version exists yet.

This medication works by selectively blocking TYK2, which is a protein found in your immune cells. Experts believe TYK2 plays an important role in the development of psoriasis.

The FDA approved Sotyktu to treat plaque psoriasis in certain groups. Doctors may prescribe the medication if you:

  • have moderate to severe psoriasis
  • are a candidate for phototherapy
  • are a candidate for systemic therapy

Certain populations should use caution before taking Sotyktu. For example, it’s unclear whether the medication will cause any harm to you or your developing fetus. Before taking the medication, you should let the prescribing doctor know if you are or plan to become pregnant.

It’s currently recommended for adults and not yet ready for use in the pediatric population. Older adults may also use the medication.

People who are allergic to deucravacitinib or to any of the excipients should not use it.

The FDA based its approval of the medication on two clinical trials. The studies compared deucravacitinib to a placebo as well as apremilast, another oral medication used to treat psoriasis.

The results showed that at week 16, about 54% of the participants who took deucravacitinib achieved full or almost full remission while about 32% of those who took apremilast achieved the same results.

By week 24, about 59% of those who took deucravacitinib showed clear or nearly clear skin, while the percentage dropped to 31% among those who took apremilast.

Both medications showed significant improvement over those who took the placebo, but deucravacitinib showed the best results overall. Researchers also found that the medication was well tolerated by most who took it.

Preliminary data also seems to suggest that the medication remains effective for up to 2 years with continuous treatment, but further studies are needed to see how much further its effectiveness can go.

Though generally safe and effective, deucravacitinib can cause potentially serious adverse reactions in people who use it. The three most common reactions include:

  • increased chance of infection, including tuberculosis and reactivation of dormant viruses, such as herpes zoster (chicken pox or shingles) and herpes simplex (oral or genital herpes)
  • increased risk of cancer, including lymphomas
  • abnormal lab results concerning liver enzymes and triglycerides
  • rhabdomyolysis, a rare condition where muscles are damaged, causing severe muscle pain and dark-colored urine

Before taking the medication, ask your doctor to assess your risk of developing adverse effects, especially if you have liver disease or a history of heart disease, so you can determine together whether the risk is worth the potential benefit.

Deucravacitinib can interact with other medications, including vaccinations.

You should talk with a doctor or pharmacist about the medications, supplements, and vitamins you’re currently taking. This can help them assess whether you need to stop using the medication or supplement before you start taking deucravacitinib.

You should also ask a doctor or pharmacist about how and when to take a live vaccine. Receiving a live vaccine can cause an infection to occur. Some examples of live vaccines include:

  • yellow fever
  • measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
  • chickenpox
  • FluMist (nasal spray form of the flu vaccine)

Other medications that affect the immune system, such as strong immunosuppressants, shouldn’t be taken with deucravacitinib. If you’re not sure which vaccines or medications are safe, you should talk with a doctor.

Deucravacitinib is a newly approved oral medication to treat moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. Two clinical trials showed that it’s more effective than other currently available oral medications in clearing or mostly clearing psoriasis plaques.

Not everyone is a good candidate for the new medication. People who aren’t candidates for systemic medications or phototherapy likely shouldn’t take it. Also, those taking other medications or may be pregnant should discuss these factors with a doctor.

You should also talk with a doctor or pharmacist about taking any live vaccine. They can advise you on how to safely receive the vaccination.