People stricken with psoriasis may soon find relief from a drug that completely eradicated the itchy skin disease in nearly two-thirds of users during the studies.
Doctors say bimekizumab “outperforms all other treatments” and hope it could be available across the NHS in a year.
Psoriasis causes red, scaly, itchy patches of skin and in extreme cases can cover any part of the body, with many sufferers scratching to the point of bleeding.
Libby Quayle, right, from Manchester, pictured with her friend Paiton Barker, has enrolled in a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of the new psoriasis treatment bimekizumab
Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects more than two percent of Britons and that typically develops in early adulthood
It affects more than two percent of Britons and typically develops in early adulthood. Although the cause is not fully understood, it occurs when the body overproduces skin cells that build up, and it is believed that this is due to problems with the immune system. Many patients treat their symptoms with creams that contain anti-inflammatory steroids. However, currently they cannot be cured and will recur for a lifetime.
The spots, often called scales, typically form on the arms and legs, but in patients with severe psoriasis, they can cover up to 90 percent of the body.
Professor Richard Warren, consultant dermatologist with the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and lead investigator on the bimekizumab study, says the lives of those worst affected can be unbearable.
He adds, “There is a big misconception that skin diseases don’t have a big impact on life. Psoriasis is a disfiguring disease – it affects every part of your life, from relationships to work. People who are severely affected often avoid taking off clothes, such as being at home. B. Swimming pools. Many of them cannot sustain relationships because psoriasis affects their genitals. ‘
Those who cannot control psoriasis with steroid creams are usually offered drugs such as secukinumab and adalimumab. These work by limiting the immune system’s production of proteins that are believed to cause inflammation.
Bimekizumab is the first of its kind to target specific immune system proteins – interleukin 17A and interleukin 17F. The results of one of the most recent studies published last week by the University of Manchester are said to have exceeded all expectations.
The patients received the drug as an injection every four weeks. By the fourth week, nearly three-quarters of the patients had started seeing improvement in their condition. Amazingly, by week 16, more than 60 percent achieved “full skin cleansing,” meaning they had no spots anywhere on their body.
In a separate study, also published last week, more than 86 percent of patients achieved near-complete skin clearance with the new drug, compared with just under 50 percent with adalimumab. Prof. Warren, also from the University of Manchester, says, “It’s the fastest-acting psoriasis drug we’ve ever seen.”
Bimekizumab is expected to be offered to patients with moderate to severe psoriasis who have not responded to other treatments. This means that more than 200,000 Britons could benefit from regulatory approval. The drug is not without side effects, however – ten percent of patients developed thrush infections, particularly in the mouth.
However, Prof. Warren says most of them were easily treated with other drugs.
One patient who is benefiting from treatment is Libby Quayle, a 24-year-old aspiring lawyer from Manchester. Libby first developed psoriasis when she began her lawyer training at the age of 18.
She says, “I got itchy spots on my scalp. Then it spread over my neck. A year later, it covered my whole body. ‘
Libby says the psoriasis was “incredibly painful” but it also affected her confidence. None of the usual treatments worked, but in February 2018 Libby was accepted into the bimekizumab study and the results were shown within a few weeks. She adds, “By the third week the dandruff subsided and by the eighth week all that was left was the redness. After living with it for so long, I almost couldn’t understand why it was gone.
“For the first time since I was 18, I was able to wear makeup and beautiful skin products without worrying about them flaring up. You do not know at this point how much physical and mental stress it is. ‘
Libby is part of a five-year study looking at its long-term effects. Says Prof. Warren, “We didn’t fully understand how to permanently turn off psoriasis, so this is not a cure. But right now this is the best treatment we have. Hopefully this can be approved by the NHS within the next 12 to 24 months. ‘