Trial drug can clear psoriasis skin within 3 months

| Melissa Leavitt

More than a third of patients trying a new drug for psoriasis had completely clear skin after three months on the treatment, according to clinical trial results presented in March at the American Academy of Dermatology meeting.

The drug, known as ixekizumab, is an injectable drug being developed by Eli Lilly to treat psoriasis. It is not yet available by prescription.

Researchers presented the results from a Phase III trial of ixekizumab involving more than 1,000 patients with moderate-to-severe psoriasis. Patients in the trial were randomly assigned to take ixekizumab every two or four weeks or a placebo.

According to the results, about 35 percent of patients taking ixekizumab every two weeks, and 33.6 percent of patients taking the drug monthly, had completely clear skin after three months. 

Many of the patients on ixekizumab who did not have completely clear skin after three months still experienced significant improvement, with more than 80 percent of people in both ixekizumab groups seeing at least 75 percent improvement in their skin, according to the data.

After the first three months of the study, some patients continued to take ixekizumab monthly for about another year. At the end of the year, more than half of these patients had completely clear skin, and nearly 78 percent saw at least a 75 percent improvement.

Among the patients on placebo, almost 4 percent experienced 75 percent improvement after three months, but none got completely clear, according to the data.

The most common side effects experienced by patients in the study were the common cold, upper respiratory tract infection, bronchitis and sinus infections, according to Dr. David Amato, senior medical advisor for Eli Lilly. The rates of mild infections were slightly higher in patients taking ixekizumab than in patients on the placebo, but there was no difference in serious infections between the placebo and ixekizumab groups, Amato said.

About the same number of patients in each study group, ranging from 1.2 percent to 2.8 percent, experienced a serious medical event while on the trial, according to the data. None were related to the treatment, Amato said.

Results from the trial will be published in a scientific journal in the coming months, according to Amato.

Ixekizumab targets a cytokine, or pro-inflammatory protein, known as interleukin-17. Another drug targeting IL-17, Cosentyx (secukinumab), won Food and Drug Administration approval earlier this year. Brodalumab, which also targets IL-17, is currently in the testing stage as well.

Editor's note: As of May 2015, Amgen has stopped developing brodalumab, due to reports of suicidal thoughts and behavior in patients taking the drug in clinical trials. 

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