About 10 years ago, researchers did not think it was possible to completely clear psoriasis, an autoimmune disease characterized by itchy, dry and red skin, but based on a series of clinical trials supported by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, a new drug is able to do just that.
In three large, long-term clinical trials reported in the New England Journal of Medicine on June 8, a new drug called ixekizumab was found to completely or almost completely clear the disease in about 80 percent of patients who had moderate to severe psoriasis.
The drug, branded as Taltz, was greenlighted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March as treatment for adults with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis.
To test the efficacy of the treatment over time and determine if the benefits of using the drug outweigh the risks, Kenneth Gordon, from Northwestern Medicine, and colleagues enrolled 3,866 psoriasis patients in three clinical trials conducted at more than 100 sites in 21 countries.
The participants either received ixekizumab at varying doses or a placebo for more than one year.
By the 12th week, 3.2 percent of those who received placebo and 81.8 percent of patients who received the treatment had their psoriasis classified as clear or minimal. By the 60th week, 68.7 to more than 78 percent of the patients who received the injectable drug maintained their improvements.
"This group of studies not only shows very high and consistent levels of safety and efficacy, but also that the great majority of the responses persist at least 60 weeks," Gordon said.
The researchers said that the findings suggest 80 percent of psoriasis patients will have a high response rate to the drug and about 40 percent will be fully cleared of psoriasis.
Use of the drug, however, was associated with some unwanted side effects.
"Adverse events reported during ixekizumab use included neutropenia, candidal infections, and inflammatory bowel disease," the researchers wrote. "The efficacy and safety of ixekizumab beyond 60 weeks of treatment are not yet known."
Psoriasis affects about 3 percent of the world's population. The rich and famous are not spared from having this condition. Kim Kardashian and Cara Delevingne, for instance, are known to have the disease.
Psoriasis is also known to increase patients' risks for heart disease, depression and diabetes. A 2014 study likewise showed that the anxiety and depression also affects the patients' family members and those living with them.