Briakinumab 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.
AdvertisementMethotrexate 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 methotrexate.
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.