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Needs Replacement for 33% Coal Tar Product
from Noah V.

Ed:  Hi there, my name is Noah Vivian. I am a 30 year old male who has been suffering from psoriasis since I was 22.

My case is not severe, and I had a period of about 18 months when I was completely clear. I also had a period of about 9 months when I was completely covered by small spots. Basically though, I am a "knees and elbows” kinda guy. Mostly elbows.

About 5 years ago I was prescribed a product called "Zetar emulsion — antipruritic tar bath." This product was 30% coal tar! The prescribed application was to put 3 capfuls of the black, sticky, smelly tar into a tub of water and soak. Well, I did that a couple of times with little effect. Then in frustration, I applied the product directly to my skin while in the shower, and let it sit for about 5 minutes before rinsing. At the time, 90% of my body was covered in psoriasis spots. After using my method of direct application 3 times, I was COMPLETELY CLEAR!

I stayed that way for about 18 months, at which time the knee and elbow symptoms recurred. I attempted to obtain more "Zetar" and found the company had discontinued its production, and no other pharmaceutical company made anything over 5% coal tar. I later found out about the California lawsuit against several companies that made coal-tar based psoriasis medication. It seems that no one will make a product containing over 3-5% coal tar because of having to label it as a carcinogen, even though topical use of coal tar for psoriasis treatment has not been proven to cause cancer.

My question to you is, where can I get coal tar? Is there a stronger product out there that I just don't know about? If it is no longer available in a prescribed form with a high concentration of the active ingredient, is there any other way to get it? If you can point me in the right direction, or add any insight to my dilemma, please, get back to me.  Thanks,  -Noah


Ed’s Response:  Ask your pharmacist about Balnetar Therapeutic Tar Bath or Cutar Bath Oil Liquid Emulsion.  The tar products intended for use in the bath are logically higher concentration out of the bottle — however, I don't know if either of these is as strong as Zetar Emulsion.  Most of the other tar products for P are intended for topical application and appropriately diminished in strength. 

I'm sure some Californians would be aghast at your story about applying the bath-intended product directly to your lesions.  While I'm not privy to the research that suggested these products are carcinogenic (and therefore shouldn't be available to Californians), if I had the same results — for years — that you had, I'm sure I'd be looking for a replacement product, too.

If either of these products are available and appropriate for you, and if your pharmacist can't or won't provide them (e.g., if you live in California) you can probably find them on the Internet.  

Another alternative may be using a coal tar derivative that is not sold “stand alone,”  but is used by compounding pharmacists for products they mix and sell locally.  I use such a compound for overnight occlusion on my scalp.  I don’t, however, know what the tar ingredient my pharmacist uses is called.  Good luck.  -Ed

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