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New Psoriasis Treatment Offers Hope

Amevive Targets Immune System to Ease Psoriasis

WebMD Health News

June 16, 2003 -- A new psoriasis treatment that gets right to the core of psoriasis provides lasting relief for people who have run out of options. A new study shows weekly injections of the drug Amevive can significantly reduce the pain, itching, inflammation, and other symptoms of psoriasis without serious side effects.

Earlier this year, Amevive became the first biologic drug approved by the FDA to treat moderate to severe psoriasis. This new psoriasis treatment works differently from topical creams or light therapy, which are designed to treat the symptoms. Amevive uses advances in biotechnology to target specific elements of the immune system that cause the plaque buildup and inflammation typically found in psoriasis.

Previous clinical trials of Amevive were based on delivering the drug intravenously, but this study looked at its effectiveness when given by weekly injections into the thigh muscle. In this study, 507 adults with chronic psoriasis were randomly assigned to receive either 10 mg or 15 mg of Amevive per week by injection or a placebo.

The results appear in the June issue of TheArchives of Dermatology.

Long-Lasting Results

The higher dose of Amevive offered the best results. Overall, more than half of the patients who received the higher dose of Amevive had at least a 50% reduction in symptoms compared with only 35% of those getting the placebo.

And researcher Mark Lebwohl, MD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and colleagues say the benefits of the new psoriasis treatment tend to be long lasting. Twelve weeks after the psoriasis treatment had been stopped, psoriasis symptoms were still better than before the study.

Although Amevive works by weakening the immune response, which could increase the risk of infection, researchers say the psoriasis treatment was generally well tolerated and did not cause major problems. The most commonly reported side effects from Amevive included headache, itching, and infection, such as the common cold.

In an editorial that accompanies the study, Alice Gottlieb, MD, PHD, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., says that finding new, more effective psoriasis treatments is a critically important issue because the disease has serious psychological as well as physical effects.

"Psoriasis is a life-disabling disorder in which 8% to 10% of patients aged 18 to 54 years actively contemplate suicide because of their disease," writes Gottlieb.

Recent research has demonstrated that psoriasis is an immune disorder. And Gottlieb says new psoriasis treatments targeting the immune system, such as Amevive, have the potential for changing the practice of dermatology and "give the hope of long-term safe and effective control of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis."

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