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Lilly antibody tackles chronic psoriasis

Ixekizumab shines in phase II trial

Patients with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis have seen significant improvements in symptoms following treatment with ixekizumab, an antibody-based treatment developed by Eli Lilly.

Results of a phase II trial of the drug candidate (formerly known as LY2439821) showed that 77 to 82 per cent of patients with chronic plaque psoriasis saw improvements in the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) score of 75 per cent or more, depending on the dose. Only 8 per cent of people on placebo achieved this level of response.

Around 40 per cent of patients in the two highest ixekizumab dose groups saw their psoriasis skin lesions completely clear up on treatment.

Ixekizumab is a monoclonal antibody targeting interleukin-17, a pro-inflammatory cytokine which is thought to be involved in a number of inflammatory diseases.

In this study it was given at doses of 150mg, 75mg, 25mg or 10mg by subcutaneous injection at enrolment and weeks two, four, eight, 12 and 16.

The most common side effects in the study were inflammation of the nasal passages, upper respiratory infection, reactions at the site of injection, and headache.

There were no serious side effects, and the rate of side effects was 63 per cent for both the ixekizumab patients and those on placebo.

"These data suggest ixekizumab … could represent a new treatment approach for patients with this condition," said the study's lead author, Craig Leonardi of Saint Louis University School of Medicine in the US.

"Further studies are needed, but we are encouraged by the results showing improvements in skin clearance early in treatment," he added.

Around 17 per cent of the 7.5m people with psoriasis in the US have moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis.

Ixekizumab is considered one of the brightest prospects in Lilly's pipeline at a time when it is suffering from patent expirations on its biggest brands - including antipsychotic Zyprexa (olanzapine) - as well as some late-stage pipeline setbacks such as the FDA's rejection of cystic fibrosis candidate Sollpura (liprotamase) last year.

The drug is currently in phase III testing for psoriasis and is also in development for psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, and has been tipped as a potential blockbuster with peak sales of around $1bn, assuming it wins approval in rheumatoid arthritis.

30th March 2012

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