Nov. 30, 2001 -- Three million Americans today have an inflammatory skin disorder called psoriasis. The condition triggers frequent episodes of redness and itching; thick, dry, silvery scales on the skin; and nail abnormalities.
If all those itchy problems weren't tough enough to handle, one in ten of these people down the road find that their joints start to stiffen and ache, as they develop psoriatic arthritis. But a recent study on a drug called Enbrel found it could give many of these people some relief.
Psoriatic arthritis resembles the rheumatoid type of the joint disease, and doctors often treat both types with similar medications. Enbrel already is an established treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, and now researchers are trying to determine how helpful it may be for people with psoriatic arthritis.
In the recent Enbrel study, which is to be presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, Philip Mease, MD, and colleagues looked at 60 people with psoriatic arthritis. Some of the participants were already taking methotrexate, which is another drug that has worked wonders in some people with rheumatoid arthritis. (People often take other anti-inflammation drugs, like Advil and Naprosyn, as well.)
In the study, each person was also put on either Enbrel or placebo for six months.
Those taking Enbrel were much more likely to have significant improvement in their joint pain and inflammation than the people taking placebo, regardless of what other treatment they were on.
Almost 60% of the Enbrel group had substantial improvement whereas only 15% of those on placebo had an equivalent amount of relief.
However, this drug, like other similar drugs, has been linked to serious infections since it works by calming down the immune system. The FDA has issued warnings to doctors and patients that Enbrel can cause bloodstream infections that have killed some people.
Immunex, Enbrel's manufacturer and the sponsor of this current study, says that the FDA has agreed to give a speedy review to Enbrel for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis. This typically means that the FDA may render a decision within six months.
Stay tuned to find out if the FDA gives it the OK.