Promising new drug developed for treating psoriasis

There is nothing flaky about these results from two large clinical trials, which show dramatic improvements seen in patients with psoriasis, who took a new drug designed to treat the chronic skin disease.

The new drug, secukinumab, was tested in two year-long phase three, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials comparing its efficacy and safety to those of placebo and the best current pharmaceutical psoriasis treatment, Enbrel. The improvements for many patients were dramatic.

“Over a quarter of patients have not a dot of psoriasis left,” said study co-author Dr. Mark Lebwohl, Chairman of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “Over half the patients have a 90 percent improvement in their psoriasis, and that means there’s hardly any psoriasis left.”

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition caused by overproduction of skin cells. The symptoms are patches of thick red discoloration of the skin, often with flaky white lesions. The National Psoriasis Foundation estimates that about 7.5 million Americans, or about 2.2 percent, suffer from psoriasis and often experience burning and itching as a result.

Secukinumab is an engineered antibody against an inflammatory signaling protein that has already been implicated in psoriasis called interleukin-17A. While current treatments target the whole immune system, this new drug only targets one specific protein. Therefore, with such pinpoint accuracy, this drug causes fewer side effects while targeting what is likely a primary cause or major player in psoriasis.

The improvements seen in patients taking secukinumab are the best seen from any treatment to date, according to Lebwohl.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the application for using secukinumab for treating psoriasis. Novartis Pharmaceuticals, the maker of secukinumab, sponsored the research.

The report describing the two trials was published on Jul. 9 in the New England Journal of Medicine.