Drug improves psoriasis by 75 percent in early trials

| Melissa Leavitt

A new biologic medication shows promise for effectively treating psoriasis, according to results from an early-stage trial.

Most of the people treated with the drug, guselkumab, experienced substantial skin improvement. The phase I trial involved 24 patients who were randomly selected to take either a placebo or a single dose of guselkumab, ranging from 10 milligrams (mg) to 300 mg. Guselkumab is administered through an injection under the skin.

Six months following treatment, a significant number of people who took guselkumab—including patients at all dosing levels—achieved a 75-percent reduction in psoriasis severity. All of the patients who took a 300 mg dose achieved this degree of improvement, with 80 percent of this group achieving a 90-percent reduction in severity.

No patients taking the placebo experienced comparable improvement.

Guselkumab was generally well-tolerated by the trial participants, the study notes. Side effects occurred in 65 percent of patients taking guselkumab, as well as half of the patients in the placebo group. The most common side effect was infection. Other side effects included gastrointestinal or musculoskeletal disorders, poison, injury or procedural complications. No serious side effects, including severe infections, cancer or major cardiovascular events, were reported.

This trial marks the first time guselkumab has been tested in humans. It will be followed by subsequent studies to further assess the safety and efficacy of the drug.

Unlike other drugs on the market, guselkumab exclusively targets interleukin-23 (IL-23), which is a protein, or cytokine, that contributes to the inflammation that causes psoriasis. Stelara (ustekinumab), a biologic used to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, targets IL-23 in addition to another cytokine, interleukin-12.The results suggest that targeting IL-23 alone could be an effective treatment for psoriasis, according to the study authors.

The results also indicate that IL-23 may play a bigger role in triggering psoriasis than previously thought, the authors note.

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