Novartis, Celgene and Pfizer trot out positive data in red-hot psoriatic arthritis race

Novartis’ Cosentyx and Celgene’s Otezla aren’t just battling it out in the psoriasis arena. As of early this year, they’re competing in psoriatic arthritis, too—and each drugmaker made its case this week with new data in that disease.

Cosentyx can steadily improve the signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis—including patient-reported pain—over three years, Novartis said at the American College of Rheumatology’s (ACR) annual meeting. Long-term follow-up data from a previously reported study showed that 77% of patients hit the target “20” mark on the ACR’s response scale at the three-year mark.

Otezla, meanwhile, showed that it could hit its own 20 mark in a Phase IIIb trial. The med significantly upped the proportion of patients to achieve a 20 response at week 16 when compared with placebo in patients who hadn’t yet received a biologic therapy.

With the psoriasis space already teeming with next-gen treatments, more and more drugmakers are chasing psoriatic arthritis indications to help them get ahead. And while Otezla’s competition may have a leg up in the efficacy department—England’s cost watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, last month declared that Celgene’s product was “a less effective treatment” than existing rivals—it has its own distinguishing feature. It’s the only pill in a sea of new-age injectable treatments, one fact that prompted NICE to recommend the drug for routine NHS use.

One drugmaker is skipping the crowded psoriasis track altogether and going straight to psoriatic arthritis: Pfizer, whose Xeljanz also came up big in studies presented at ACR. Both trials—which enrolled patients who had not fully responded to conventional disease-modifying drugs or to tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors—met their primary endpoints, the pharma giant said.

Meanwhile, Novartis is looking to take on the old-guard blockbusters in addition to its newcomer nemeses. It plans to start up head-to-head trials comparing Cosentyx with the world’s best-selling med, AbbVie’s Humira, in both psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.