Pirfenidone (Esbriet or Pirfenex) is one of the few medications that effectively treats and slows down the progression of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). While this medication is generally well tolerated, pirfenidone, like many other drugs, can increase the chance of a condition called photosensitivity. Photosensitivity means the skin is more sensitive to sun lights. People with photosensitivity can get sun burns more easily than usual and even have allergic skin reactions to sun light. We have had many patients after buying pirfenidone from our Canadian pharmacy service who called us with a skin rash thinking they were having an allergic reaction to pirfenidone, but in fact they were having photosensitivity and the skin rashes were results of unprotected exposure to sun lights.
Taking pirfenidone is crucial in helping to slow down the progression of pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that can ultimately lead to death. Knowing that pirfenidone can increase the risks of photosensitivity, we can implement a few simple measures to effectively protect ourselves from the sun.
- Stay out of the sun during peak hours when possible
- Do not try to get a base tan – opposite to common belief, darker skin does not offer more protection from the sun. Your skin still receive the same amount of UV lights. You can damage your skin from getting an artificial tan.
- Wear protective clothing:
- Wear long-sleeve shirts and pants and a brimmed hat to cover your skin
- Darker clothing and materials such as lycra, nylon, and acrylic offer better protection from the sun
- Some clothing will indicate how much UV protection the item offers with a UV protection factor (UPV) on the tag. Choose cloth with UPV rating of 30 or more to get effective protection
- Apply sun screen when going out under the sun
- Pick a sun screen with broad spectrum coverage for both UVA (causes wrinkles and aging) and UVB (causes sun burns)
- Pick a sun screen with at least 30 SPF. Pick one with SPF 50 if you have pale skin.
- Sun screens should be applied 30 minutes before going out in the sun and every 2 hours while staying in the sun
- Apply the sun screen generously – you need to apply at least 1 ounce (1 shot glass) of sun screen to cover your body