By Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, June 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Many patients with the skin disease psoriasis showed significant improvement when taking an experimental drug called ixekizumab, according to a late-stage, phase 3 clinical trial.
"The visible effects of psoriasis can have a major and life-ruining impact on people's confidence and self-esteem," study leader Chris Griffiths, a professor of dermatology at the University of Manchester in England, said in a university news release.
"What we saw in this trial was not just the physical aspects of the disease clearing up, but people on the new drug also reporting a marked improvement in their quality of life as they felt more confident and suffered less from itching -- far more than in the other two groups," he said.
The trial was funded by drug maker Eli Lilly and included 2,500 patients with moderate-to-severe psoriasis. Half took ixekizumab, while the other half took an inactive placebo or the widely used psoriasis drug etanercept (brand name Enbrel).
After 12 weeks of treatment, 40 percent of those who took the new drug were free of all psoriasis, and more than 90 percent showed improvement, the research team reported recently in The Lancet. About half of the patients showed improvement as early as week four, Griffiths' team said
Overall, the patients taking ixekizumab had better results than those taking etanercept or the placebo, the research showed.
As the researchers explained, the new drug works by neutralizing the inflammatory effects of a protein believed to be one of the causes of psoriasis.
"The objective for treating psoriasis has been to reduce the visible symptoms. But new drugs are fast showing us that a realistic goal for all patients should be attaining clear skin and this trial very much sets us on that path," Griffiths said in the news release.
One expert in the United States said the trial results are welcome news.
"This represents another in a series of recent breakthroughs in the treatment of psoriasis," said Dr. Andrew Alexis, chair of the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt in New York City. "In addition to improving or clearing the visible features of psoriasis, treatment with ixekizumab also resulted in significant improvement in quality of life," he said.