holds promise to be an effective drug
for improving psoriasis. This experimental drug was demonstrated to be far more
effective than methotrexate, the commonly used drug for the skin condition
. Psoriasis is a chronic skin
condition that produces red, dry plaques of thickened skin. The recent
trial comparing the use of briakinumab with methotrexate in psoriasis was
published in the October 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine
. Critics opine that with the
advent of the new drug, the word 'remission' is now on the table.
Briakinumab is a genetically engineered protein
developed by Abbott Laboratories for the treatment of a number of conditions
like psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple
sclerosis. The drug was found to effect a dramatic
improvement in 60 percent of psoriasis patients who used it. Skin lesions
produced by psoriasis cleared
up in about three times as many patients who got briakinumab as those who got
Methotrexate has been the mainstay
of treatment of psoriasis for decades. The new experimental drug belongs to a
group of drugs called biologics, i.e. drugs created by biologic processes,
rather than being chemically synthesized. Biologics have easier-to-use risk profiles
and are much safer than methotrexate.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease
that is yet to have a complete cure. It can however be controlled with
medications. Tremendous research has produced a number of promising therapies
for the condition. Study researcher Kristian Reich, MD says that "This
drug (Briakinumab) has had, in this trial, the highest efficacy we have ever
seen with any biologic in psoriasis before."
The current trial weighed the effects of
briakinumab against the classical therapy with methotrexate. A total of 317
patients with moderate to severe psoriasis took part in the study. About 60 percent of the 154 patients
treated with briakinumab showed near or complete clearance of skin lesions
produced by psoriasis. This result could be achieved only
by about 10% to 20% of 163 patients in the group of patients taking
The drug does
come with serious side effects, like a higher risk of certain forms of cancer
like breast cancer and prostate cancer. Herpes Zoster infection was another
serious adverse effect observed. The side effects of briakinumab were not significantly
different from those in patients treated with methotrexate.
On account of
the side effects and the requirement of clearer scrutiny, the drug is yet to be
completely approved for patients. There has also been criticism of the trial
blaming it for 'being too short and including too few patients to detect harm'.
Reference: N Engl J Med. 2011;365:1586-1596.