FDA clears Philips' light therapy wearable for mild psoriasis

Already available in Europe for years, Philips' BlueControl system uses blue light to trigger natural processes in the skin to control psoriasis symptoms. (Philips)

Philips scored FDA clearance for its wearable light therapy device for the treatment of psoriasis. The rechargeable device delivers blue LED light to the skin in a drug-free approach that controls the symptoms of mild psoriasis.

Characterized by patches of thick, red inflamed skin covered with scales, psoriasis occurs when skin cells quickly rise to the surface, where they build up before they mature. The chronic disease affects more than 6.7 million adults in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Philips launched the first-generation BlueControl system in Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. in October 2014. The following year, the company earned a CE mark for the device’s follow-up, which was introduced in additional markets, including Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Poland. The FDA has cleared it as a prescription device for home use.

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A patient secures the BlueControl device on the affected body part using adjustable straps. The blue light triggers natural processes in the skin that ease the symptoms of psoriasis, which include redness and scaling. Specifically, it slows down the accelerated production of skin cells that results in plaques.

In addition to light therapy, psoriasis is commonly treated with pharmaceuticals. Topical treatments such as ointments or creams containing corticosteroids work well for some patients, but some patients with severe psoriasis may need medications that are taken orally or by injection. These include immune suppressants and drugs that interfere with specific immune system functions that cause the overproduction of skin cells.

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Patients who take immune-suppressing drugs are at higher risk of infection. Using light therapy alone, or in combination with medication—which allows a lower dose of each—is an attractive way to reduce this risk.

Now, Philips plans to engage with dermatologists and patient support groups in the U.S., with eyes on commercial launch early next year.