Vtama is a brand-name topical cream that’s prescribed for plaque psoriasis. Vtama contains the active drug tapinarof.
Vtama is FDA-approved to treat mild, moderate, and severe plaque psoriasis in adults.
You’ll find key information about Vtama below.
- Drug class: Aryl hydrocarbon receptor agonist
- Drug form: Topical cream
- Generic available? No
- Prescription required? Yes
- Controlled substance? No
- Year of FDA approval: 2022
Note: Vtama is a new type of topical treatment for psoriasis. It’s not a corticosteroid. (Corticosteroids are another type of topical treatment commonly used to treat psoriasis.)
Vtama can cause mild or serious side effects. The following lists contain some of the key side effects that may occur while taking Vtama. These lists do not include all possible side effects.
For more information about the possible side effects of Vtama, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can give you tips on how to manage any side effects that may be concerning or bothersome.
Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs it has approved. If you would like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Vtama, you can do so through MedWatch.
Mild side effects
Mild side effects* of Vtama can include:
- folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles)
- contact dermatitis (skin inflammation or rash)
- common cold
- mild allergic reaction†
Most of these side effects may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. However, if they become more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
* This is a partial list of mild side effects from Vtama. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or view Vtama’s prescribing information.
† For more information, see “Allergic reaction” below.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects weren’t reported with Vtama in clinical studies. However, serious side effects, such as severe allergic reactions, may still occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:
- swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
- swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat
- trouble breathing
Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Vtama, as the reaction could become severe. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.
The following information describes the Vtama topical* cream dosage that is commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to use the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.
* “Topical” means applied to the skin.
Drug forms and strengths
Vtama comes as a cream that you apply to your skin. It’s available in one strength: 1%.
Dosage for plaque psoriasis
To treat plaque psoriasis in adults, you should apply a thin layer of cream to the psoriasis plaques once per day.
What if I miss a dose?
If you miss a dose, apply the cream as soon as you remember, then resume your usual once-per-day schedule. Do not use extra cream or apply Vtama more than once per day to make up for a missed dose.
Will I need to use this drug long term?
It depends. You may need to use Vtama for 12 weeks or longer before your psoriasis improves. If your psoriasis clears up with Vtama, your doctor will likely recommend stopping treatment. They may then recommend restarting Vtama if your psoriasis comes back.
If you and your doctor determine that Vtama is safe and effective for you, your doctor may recommend using it in this way long term. In clinical trials, Vtama was used for up to 1 year.
As with all medications, the cost of Vtama can vary. The actual price you’ll pay depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.
Keep in mind that you may be able to get a 90-day supply of Vtama. If approved by your insurance company, getting a 90-day supply of the drug could reduce your number of trips to the pharmacy and help lower the cost. If you’re interested in this option, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company.
Before approving coverage for Vtama, your insurance company may require you to get prior authorization. This means that your doctor and insurance company will need to communicate about your prescription before the insurance company will cover the drug. The insurance company will review the prior authorization request and decide if the drug will be covered.
If you’re not sure whether you’ll need to get prior authorization for Vtama, contact your insurance company.
If you need financial support to pay for Vtama, help is available. For information about the MyVtama savings card and to find out if you’re eligible for support, call 347-532-5250 or visit the drug manufacturer’s website.
To learn more about saving money on prescriptions, see this article.
Vtama may be available through a mail-order pharmacy. Using this service may help lower the drug’s cost and allow you to get your medication without leaving home.
If recommended by your doctor, you may be able to receive a 90-day supply of Vtama, so there’s less concern about running out of the medication. If you’re interested in this option, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company. Some Medicare plans may help cover the cost of mail-order medications.
If you don’t have insurance, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist about online pharmacy options.
Vtama is not available in a generic form. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. Generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as Vtama to treat certain conditions. Vtama may also be used off-label for other conditions. Off-label drug use is when an FDA-approved drug is prescribed for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.
Vtama for plaque psoriasis
Vtama is FDA-approved to treat plaque psoriasis in adults.
Plaque psoriasis explained
Plaque psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your skin cells. (Usually, your immune system defends your body against infections.) The attack causes inflammation (swelling) in your skin. And it causes your skin cells to be replaced too quickly.
The skin cells build up on the surface of your skin, creating thick, scaly, itchy patches called plaques. Plaques typically develop on your elbows, knees, lower back, or scalp. In darker skin tones, the plaques may appear dark brown or purple with gray scales. In lighter skin tones, they may appear red or pink with white scales.
Effectiveness for plaque psoriasis
Vtama is an effective treatment for plaque psoriasis that can improve your symptoms or make them go away completely.
In clinical trials, some people had their plaque psoriasis clear up in 12 weeks with Vtama. And many people still had clear skin for 4 months after stopping Vtama. If your plaque psoriasis comes back, restarting treatment with Vtama can make it clear up again.
For more information on how the drug performed in clinical trials, see Vtama’s prescribing information.
To learn more about your condition, see our psoriasis hub.
Vtama and children
Vtama is only approved to treat plaque psoriasis in adults. The medication hasn’t been studied in children under 18 years, so it’s not known if it’s safe or effective in this age group.
Talk with your doctor about possible treatment options for children with psoriasis.
Systemic treatments are medications that work throughout your body. They may be taken orally (by mouth) or by injection. Examples include:
- oral medications such as:
- biologics (drugs made from living cells) taken by injection such as:
Talk with your doctor about whether you will use Vtama with any other psoriasis treatments.
Vtama isn’t known to interact with alcohol.
However, it’s possible that drinking alcohol can trigger psoriasis flare-ups in some people. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that psoriasis treatment may be less effective if you regularly drink alcohol or drink in excess.
If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about whether this may be worsening your psoriasis. They can advise how much is safe for you to drink.
However, this doesn’t mean that interactions won’t be recognized in the future. For example, new drugs could be approved that interact with Vtama.
Note that if you use other topical medications (treatments applied to the skin) or moisturizers, you should not apply them within about half an hour of each other. This is to avoid them mixing or diluting the medication on your skin, which could make it less effective.
Before starting treatment with Vtama, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Tell them about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also, tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you take. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.
If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
You should use Vtama according to the instructions your doctor gives you.
Vtama comes as a cream that you apply in a thin layer directly to the psoriasis plaques. Take care to avoid getting the cream on areas of skin that aren’t affected by plaques.
Wash your hands after applying the cream unless you’re treating psoriasis on your hands.
When to use
You should apply Vtama once per day. You can apply it any time of day that’s convenient for you. However, don’t apply it just before showering or bathing, as you’ll just wash the cream off.
If you use moisturizers, it’s best to avoid applying these within about 30 minutes of applying Vtama. They may dilute the medication on your skin, which could make it less effective.
To help make sure that you don’t miss a dose, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm or using a timer. You could also download a reminder app on your phone.
Accessible labels and containers
If your prescription label is hard to read, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Some pharmacies offer labels that have large print, braille, or a code you scan with a smartphone to convert text to speech. If your local pharmacy doesn’t have these options, your doctor or pharmacist may be able to direct you to one that does.
Vtama is a topical treatment for plaque psoriasis. A topical treatment is applied to your skin. You’ll apply Vtama cream directly to the psoriasis plaques.
What happens with plaque psoriasis
With plaque psoriasis, your immune system mistakenly attacks your skin cells. (Usually, your immune system defends your body against infections.) The attack causes inflammation (swelling) in your skin. And it causes your skin cells to be replaced too quickly. The skin cells build up on the surface of your skin, creating thick, scaly, itchy patches called plaques.
What Vtama does
Vtama is a type of drug called an aryl hydrocarbon receptor agonist. It attaches to special sites in your skin called aryl hydrocarbon receptors (AhRs). AhRs help control various pathways that are involved in the healthy function of your skin.
It’s not known how Vtama works to treat plaque psoriasis. However, by attaching to AhRs in your skin, Vtama helps helps to balance to the pathways in your skin. This helps stop the excessive production of skin cells that cause the psoriasis plaques. It also reduces inflammation in your skin.
How long does it take to work?
Vtama starts working as soon as you use it, but it may take a few weeks before your psoriasis starts to improve. In clinical trials, some people had improvements in their symptoms as early as 4 weeks after starting Vtama. However, for most people, it took at least 12 weeks of treatment for psoriasis to improve or clear up completely.
It’s not known if Vtama is safe to use during pregnancy. It hasn’t been studied in people who are pregnant.
Some animal studies found that tapinarof (the active drug in Vtama) had harmful effects when given to pregnant animals. However, note that in these studies, the medication was given by injection. It was also given at doses much higher than those applied to the skin in people. And note that animal studies don’t always predict what will happen in people.
If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about the possible risks and benefits of using Vtama.
It’s not known if Vtama is safe to use during pregnancy. If you’re sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your birth control needs while you’re using Vtama.
For more information about taking Vtama during pregnancy, see the “Vtama and pregnancy” section above.
It’s not known if Vtama is safe to use during breastfeeding. It’s not known if the medication can pass into breast milk.
In animal studies, tapinarof (the active drug in Vtama) was found to pass into the milk of lactating animals. However, it’s important to note that in these studies, the medication was given by injection. And it was given at doses much higher than those applied to the skin in people. But animal studies don’t always predict what will happen in people.
If you’re breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed, talk with your doctor about the possible risks and benefits of using Vtama.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Vtama.
Are there certain areas of the body where I should not apply Vtama?
Vtama can be used on most parts of your body, including sensitive areas of skin, such as your face and genitals. However, you should not apply Vtama inside your mouth or vagina. And take care to avoid getting it in your eyes.
If you have any skin irritation after using Vtama topical cream, talk with your doctor.
What are Vtama’s long-term side effects?
Vtama isn’t known to cause any long-term side effects. If you have side effects while using it, these may improve while you keep using the cream or get better soon after you stop using it.
Using Vtama for a long time isn’t known to increase the risk of side effects. However, in clinical trials where Vtama was used for up to 1 year, skin reactions or urticaria (hives) were rarely reported.
If you’re concerned about the risk of long-term side effects with Vtama, talk with your doctor.
In what ways does Vtama differ from other plaque psoriasis creams?
Vtama is the first in a new class of creams for plaque psoriasis. It’s a type of medication called an aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) agonist. It works differently than other creams for plaque psoriasis that are currently available.
Other types of creams used for plaque psoriasis include:
- corticosteroids, such as betamethasone valerate (Dermabet, Beta-Val, others)
- vitamin D analogs, such as calcipotriene (Dovonex)
- retinoids, such as tazarotene (Tazorac)
- calcineurin inhibitors, such as pimecrolimus (Elidel)
- coal tar
- salicylic acid
- anthralin and dithranol
Vtama may have fewer side effects than other creams used for plaque psoriasis, in particular corticosteroids. And unlike some other psoriasis creams, Vtama can be used on sensitive areas of skin such as the face and genitals. (However, you should not apply Vtama inside your mouth or vagina.)
To find out more about the differences between Vtama and other psoriasis creams, talk with your doctor. They can help you determine the most suitable medication for you.
How long does it take for Vtama to work?
Vtama starts working as soon as you use it, but it may take a few weeks before your psoriasis starts to improve. In clinical trials, some people had improvements in their symptoms as early as 4 weeks after starting Vtama. But for most people, it took at least 12 weeks of treatment for psoriasis to improve or clear up completely.
Talk with your doctor about the results you can expect with Vtama.
This drug comes with several precautions. These are considered drug-condition interactions. Before taking Vtama, talk with your doctor about your health history. Vtama may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors affecting your health. These include:
- Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Vtama or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Vtama. Ask your doctor about other medications that may be better options for you.
- Pregnancy. It’s not known if Vtama is safe to use during pregnancy. For more information, see the “Vtama and pregnancy” section above.
- Breastfeeding. It’s not known if it’s safe to use Vtama when breastfeeding. For more information, see the “Vtama and breastfeeding” section above.
Note: For more information about the potential negative effects of Vtama, see the “Vtama side effects” section above.
Do not use more Vtama than your doctor recommends. For some drugs, doing so may lead to unwanted side effects or overdose.
What to do in case you use too much Vtama
If you think you’ve used too much of this drug, call your doctor. You can also call call America’s Poison Centers at 800-222-1222 or use its online tool. However, if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or your local emergency number, or go to the nearest emergency room right away.
When you get Vtama from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on the packaging. This date is typically 1 year from the date they dispensed the medication.
The expiration date helps guarantee that the medication is effective during this time. The
How long a medication remains good to use can depend on many factors, including how and where you store the medication.
Vtama cream should be stored at room temperature. Avoid storing this medication in areas where it could get damp or wet, such as bathrooms.
If you no longer need to use Vtama and have leftover medication, it’s important to dispose of it safely. This helps prevent others, including children and pets, from taking the drug by accident. It also helps keep the drug from harming the environment.
This article provides several useful tips on medication disposal. You can also ask your pharmacist for information about how to dispose of your medication.
Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.