FDA approves Xeljanz for psoriatic arthritis

| Joe Doolen

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer’s Xeljanz (tofacitinib) on Dec. 14, 2017, for treatment in adults with active psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Taken twice daily in a 5 mg tablet, Xeljanz reduces pain and swelling in the joints, and slows the progression of joint damage, according to studies.

Xeljanz is the first of a new class of treatments called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors approved for the treatment of PsA. The active ingredient in Xeljanz binds to the protein JAK, preventing the body’s inflammatory response that plays a role in the development of PsA.  

Two Phase 3 studies, one led by NPF Fellowship recipient Dafna Gladman, M.D., showed that 5 mg tofacitinib twice daily was superior to placebo in achieving the American College of Rheumatology 20 percent (ACR20) response at three months. At this time, half of the people in both studies saw 20 percent improvement in tender or swollen joint counts as well as 20 percent improvement in at least three of five other criteria (a self-assessment, physician assessment, pain scale, functionality questionnaire and blood test).

Individuals showed significant improvement of skin and a reduction of inflammation in fingers, toes, and other regions where tendons or ligaments insert into the bone.

Xeljanz has been proven to work alone or with methotrexate, a systemic drug commonly used in PsA treatment. The FDA approved Xeljanz for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in 2012.

Despite recent advances in drug development, individuals suffering with PsA need more options for treatment.

“We have had a revolution in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis, but individual patients might not respond as well to one drug as they would to another, and not every patient will have access to every drug,” said Evan Siegel, M.D., NPF Medical Board member and rheumatologist at Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates in Rockville, Maryland. “The more options that are available, the more likely that we are going to be able to help an individual patient.”

Since 1987, NPF has funded more than $17 million in research into psoriatic disease, directly contributing to the wave of treatments in recent years. Additionally, NPF connects patients with clinical trials so that more treatment options may be tested and ultimately approved.  

NPF knows that treating psoriatic disease can be challenging. If you would like to learn more about treatment options including Xeljanz, contact our Patient Navigation Center. Our specially trained Patient Navigators offer free resources to individuals living with psoriatic disease, their caregivers and health care providers. 


Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

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