Psoriasis data wars heat up at AAD with Novartis, Boehringer studies

Part of setting a therapy standard is having a target on your back for rivals to aim for, and as a new crop of psoriasis hopefuls advances through pipelines across Big Pharma (and penetrates the market, in the case of Novartis' ($NVS) already-launched Cosentyx), Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Stelara is finding that out the hard way. Newcomers showed off at this year's American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) meeting, with more than one touting Stelara-beating data--and prepping the market for an all-out psoriasis war.

Novartis, which trumpeted a head-to-head win for Cosentyx over the J&J drug last December, kept the ball rolling with results showing that at 16 weeks, its med improved skin clearance in significantly more plaque psoriasis patients than Stelara did. It also nailed the Phase IIIb study's secondary endpoint, finding that by Week 4, half the patients in the Cosentyx arm had achieved a score of 75 on the Psoriasis Area Severity Index--compared with 20.6% of psoriasis sufferers in the Stelara arm.

Boehringer Ingelheim got in on the action, too, releasing Phase II Stelara-topping data for its BI-655066 candidate. After 12 weeks of treatment, the German pharma's IL-23 inhibitor achieved clear or almost clear skin--a 90 on the PASI scale--in 77% of patients, compared with 40% for Stelara. And it posted a similar safety and tolerability profile to J&J's therapy, too.

BI's treatment is now on its way to Phase III trials, but once it advances, it'll find a host of rivals already there. The race is on between Amgen ($AMGN) and AstraZeneca's ($AZN) brodalumab and Eli Lilly's ($LLY) ixekizumab to nab a second-place finish in the Il-17 inhibitor department behind Cosentyx, and those drugs could hit the market as soon as next year. Fellow IL-23 blockers MK-3222 from Merck ($MRK) and Johnson & Johnson's guselkumab are further behind, but they're making their way down the regulatory pathway, too.

And it's not just pipeline hopefuls trying to break onto the psoriasis scene. Pfizer's ($PFE) working to get there with arthritis remedy Xeljanz, and on that front, it had good news to report at AAD, too. According to data from two Phase III studies, twice-daily dosage of the tablets beat placebo--results that could help the med's case with the FDA, which is expected to decide on Pfizer's NDA by October.

- see Novartis' release
- see Boehringer's release
- see Pfizer's release

Special Report: Top 15 Drug Launch Superstars - Stelara - Johnson & Johnson

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