Drug Shows Promise for Treating Psoriatic Arthritis

By Pat Anson, Editor

An injectable drug used to treat plaque psoriasis may also be effective in treating psoriatic arthritis, according to new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Secukinumab – which is sold by Novartis under the brand name Cosentyx – helped reduce swollen joints in a double-blind Phase III study involving over 600 patients with psoriatic arthritis. Treatment with Cosentyx resulted in rapid and significant improvements in about half of the patients compared to a placebo.

The study was neither large enough or long enough to evaluate side effects associated with long-term use of Cosentyx.

Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that affects about a third of people who have psoriasis — a condition that features red skin lesions. Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are the main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, which can affect any part of the body, including the fingertips and spine.  

No cure for psoriatic arthritis exists, so the focus is on controlling symptoms and preventing further damage to joints.

Cosentyx was approved in Europe early this year as a first-line treatment for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. The drug is also approved in the U.S. as a treatment for plaque psoriasis in adult patients who are candidates for systemic therapy or phototherapy (light therapy).

Novartis has applied for Cosentyx to be used as a treatment for psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

Psoriatic arthritis can develop at any time, but it most commonly appears between the ages of 30 and 50, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Genes, the immune system and environmental factors all appear to play a role in the onset of the disease. About 10 percent of people inherit one or more of the genes that could eventually lead to psoriasis, but only 2 to 3 percent actually develop the disease.