In a crowded market, AbbVie may still have a best-in-class psoriasis prospect up its sleeve: analyst

AbbVie's risankizumab helped nearly half of patients achieve complete skin clearance by week 16 in a phase 3 study.

The last few years have seen a wave of new biologics take the psoriasis market by storm. But a best-in-class product may still be on its way, one analyst says.

Monday, AbbVie prospect risankizumab showed it could bring 47% of patients to complete skin clearance by week 16 of treatment in a phase 3 study, topping placebo, which hit that benchmark in just 1% of patients. And of those who did achieve clear or almost clear skin, 87% were still in that group at the one-year mark.

RELATED: Johnson & Johnson's Tremfya gets its go-ahead to fight Novartis, Lilly in psoriasis. Can it stand out?

It’s the fourth set of pivotal trial data on the candidate, and so far, risankizumab’s results “appear to be at least marginally better” than those of the only other anti-IL-23 agent on the market, Johnson & Johnson’s Tremfya, Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges wrote in a note to clients. The AbbVie wannabe produced a slightly higher proportion of patients hitting key benchmarks on the skin-clearance scale, he noted—and with less-frequent dosing than the J&J product.

The way Porges sees it, risankizumab may be able to stand apart from the broader psoriasis field, too, despite its many recent entrants. Novartis’ Cosentyx, Eli Lilly’s Taltz and Valeant’s Siliq—all part of the IL-17 crowd—have shown up recently to give anti-TNF giants such as AbbVie’s Humira a run for their money. But “we believe risankizumab has a clearly differentiated profile in comparison to existing anti-TNF and IL-17s, making this an attractive option for use prior to other biologics once it becomes approved,” Porges wrote.

RELATED: Novartis looks past psoriasis for even bigger Cosentyx growth frontier

Having some psoriasis firepower in the pipeline is important for AbbVie in light of the arrival of Humira’s new competitors. Tremfya, for one, last year showed it could top the world’s best-seller in a head-to-head tilt, while Novartis is plotting its own head-to-heads between Humira and Cosentyx in psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis; wins for the Swiss drugmaker there could chip away at Humira’s hold on the rheumatology market, too.

And that’s not to mention the Humira biosimilars that’ll hit the scene after the floodgates open in 2023. Amgen’s already-approved copy, Amgevita, is set to launch Jan. 31 of that year after a settlement the big biotech made with AbbVie.

Meanwhile, if risankizumab can really pass Tremfya to become the “preferred” med in its class, Porges will be updating his sales forecast, he said. Currently, he’s predicting $1.2 billion in risk-adjusted peak sales for 2026—and that’s just in the psoriasis indication alone.