In January, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug, Cosentyz (active ingredient secukinumab), for the treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. Cosentyz is a biologic treatment option and has, in Europe, been approved as a first-line treatment. It is administered through an injection under the skin and “is intended for patients who are candidates for systemic therapy, phototheray or a combination of both.”
To receive the FDA approval, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer, completed four clinical trials with a total of 2,403 participants. The results of the trials showed that patients who received Cosentyz had better results and achieved clear or near-clear skin when compared to those who received a placebo. In drug-comparison trials, Cosentyz did better than Enbrel or Stelara, both of which are current treatments for psoriasis.
The Cosentyz injection is intitially given once a week for four weeks, followed by injections every four weeks. The reported common side effects were:
- Nasopharyngitis (virus of the nose and throat, runny nose, sneezing)
- Upper respiratory infections
- Rhinitis (stuffy nose)
Other. less common side effects included oral herpes, urticaria, sinusitis, conjunctivitis, tonsillitis, impetigo and otitis media. It is not recommended for those with Crohn’s disease. It can also affect your immune system and increase your chances of developing an infection.
The results of the phase III clinical trials of Cosentyz were impressive - 70 percent of patients achieved 90 to 100 percent clear skin within the first 16 months of treatment. ven so, some people may have problems getting the treatment approved by their insurance companies. The cost for the treatment is expected to be similar to that of Stelara - which costs around $46,000 per year.
Stelara is a second-line medication, meaning it is used when other medications have not been successful. Insurance companies may not want to pay the same price for a first-line treatment and may require that physicians prescribe a less expensive medication first, especially since older medications for psoriasis are now available in generic form.
But other pharmaceutical companies have similar medications. In 2015, it is expected that Eli Lilly and partners Amgen and AstraXeneca will both file to request approvals on medications that work as an IL-17 inhibitor – as Cosentyz does. The approval of these medications could cause the pharmaceutical companies to lower prices to become more competitive. Novartis is hoping that their early entry into the market will help them by becoming doctors’ and patients’ first choice of medication.
No matter what happens, it is clear that advances in the treatment of psoriasis are continuing. Achieving clear skin is not just a pipe dream. With these new medications, it can become a reality for many people who have lived for years with the chronic pain and embarrassment caused by plaque psoriasis.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.