2 New Drugs Relieve Psoriasis Itch, Scaling

Amevive, Raptiva Provide Significant Relief in Study

From the WebMD Archives

Dec. 16, 2003 -- Two new psoriasis treatments look promising, helping relieve pain, itch, and frequency of scaling.

Studies of the two news psoriasis treatments -- Amevive and Raptiva -- show both drugs provided significant relief of psoriasis symptoms and disease.

Both drugs target immune system cells -- called T-cells -- that are overactive in psoriasis, an immune system disorder that causes skin cells to grow too quickly -- explains lead researcher Kenneth Gordon, MD, a dermatology professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, in a news release.

"The skin cells also do not mature normally," says Gordon. "As a result, the skin piles up and forms red, scaly, thick plaque lesions." He was lead researcher on both studies.

The Evidence

Gordon's 12-week study of Raptiva involved 556 adults with moderate to severe psoriasis. Patients received weekly injections of the psoriasis treatment drug or a placebo.

Researchers checked each patient's head, upper and lower limbs, and trunk for signs of psoriasis. Patients also reported symptoms like pain, itching, bleeding, burning, and scaling.

"The [Raptiva] treatment reduced the frequency and severity of psoriasis symptoms, particularly in the severity of itching and scaling," says Gordon. That study appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The patients in the study tolerated Raptiva well, according to the researchers. The most common side effects normally seen with Raptiva are headache, chills, fever, nausea, and muscle aches that are most commonly seen within two days of the first dose.

In the Amevive study, 553 patients got one or two 12-week courses of weekly injections of the psoriasis treatment or a placebo.

T-cell counts were lower in patients getting either one or two courses of Amevive. But T-cell counts remained within normal limits in about 85% of people receiving Amevive. This suggests that their risk of infection from a weakened immune system would be minimal.

Those who had the largest decreases in T-cell counts saw the most improvement in psoriasis symptoms. They also had the longest-lasting symptom reductions from their psoriasis treatment, reports Gordon. That study appears in the Archives of Dermatology.

Side effects from Amevive include sore throat, dizziness, and cough. Amevive contains warnings about the possibility of low immune cell counts, which could increase the risk of cancer and serious infections.

The studies of Raptiva and Amevive should be heartening news for many patients searching for new psoriasis treatments.

WebMD Health News


SOURCES: Gordon, K. TheJournal of the American Medical Association, Nov. 17, 2003; vol 290: pp 3073-3080. Gordon, K. Archives of Dermatology, December 2003; vol 139: pp 1563-1570.

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