Otezla maker Amgen challenges patient groups to help fix long-lasting psoriasis treatment gaps

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Amgen is striking up an innovation challenge to solve lasting gaps in psoriatic disease treatment. (Amgen Inc)

What to do when new, better treatments for a condition are available but fewer people are seeking them out?

If you're Amgen, looking to fill gaps in psoriatic disease treatment, you launch a brainstorming contest.

The California drugmaker, which markets the psoriasis pill Otezla and longtime standard therapy Enbrel, is calling on patient groups of all sizes and localities to take their shot at answering a seemingly mundane question: How can psoriatic disease patients work with their doctors to get better results from treatment?

For the innovation challenge, fielded with help from the International Federation of Psoriasis Associations, each patient group will have until the end of August to complete Amgen's online questionnaire describing their solutions in detail. 

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The group with the best idea, as determined by a panel of judges, will walk away with a cool $25,000 provided by Amgen to put their solution to work, Kave Niksefat, vice president and general manager of inflammation at Amgen, told Fierce Pharma in an email. 

What exactly is the challenge trying to fix? As Amgen sees it, there are two main areas of disconnect between psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis patients and their physicians, according to key findings from a large-scale survey conducted in 2020 known as “UPLIFT.” 

First, a majority of psoriasis patients with limited amounts of skin affected by the disease see their condition as more severe, even though common assessment tools wouldn’t categorize it that way. 

Second, a “significant proportion” of people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, regardless of disease severity, are still undertreated—or completely untreated—despite more available options, Niksefat said, comparing the UPLIFT survey results to a similar questionnaire conducted nearly a decade ago. 

In fact, just half of patients in 2020 said they had seen a physician in the past year for their disease compared to the roughly 83% reported in 2012, Amgen said. 

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Innovation challenges have been hot in other disease areas in recent years, like with Celgene’s in multiple sclerosis (MS) challenge in 2019. But for those in the psoriatic disease community, Amgen sees its call as “a first-of-its-kind initiative,” Niksefat said.  

The latest challenge could yield key insights for Amgen, which placed a big bet on psoriasis when it shelled out $13.4 billion to buy Otezla from Celgene ahead of its Bristol Myers Squibb merger. So far, Amgen has seen sales jump for Otezla, as well as for its Humira copycat Amgevita, which is going strong in Europe ahead of a 2023 launch in the U.S. Meanwhile, longtime blockbuster Enbrel is still delivering, with $5 billion in 2020 sales.

The winning group will have to report back to Amgen in six months, then again in a year, to share their final solution and the results it's delivered, Niksefat said.