AAD: AbbVie's Skyrizi bests Novartis' Cosentyx in head-to-head psoriasis match

With its megamerger with Allergan closed and Humira's decline staring it in the face, AbbVie is looking for growth from its two recent launches, psoriasis med Skyrizi and rheumatoid arthritis drug Rinvoq. Skyrizi, in particular, has raced out to fast start just a year into launch––and new data topping an older blockbuster could pave the way for even more success.

Skyrizi ran circles around Novartis' IL-17 competitor Cosentyx in clearing psoriasis patients' skin after one year, according to late-breaking data presented Friday at the American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting.

In the phase 3b Immerge study, 66% of patients treated with Skyrizi saw completely clear skin on the PASI index at 16 weeks compared with just 40% treated with Cosentyx.

At the 90% clearance threshold, Skyrizi matched Cosentyx at 16 weeks and easily bested its older rival at the 52-week mark. For the earlier checkpoint, 74% of Skyrizi patients achieved a 90% reduction in skin symptoms compared with 66% for Cosentyx patients. After a year, however, 87% of patients reached that threshold compared with 57% of Cosentyx patients.

Meanwhile, Skyrizi and Cosentyx posted adverse events at a similar rate, with two patients dropping out of the Skyrizi arm and eight on Cosentyx.

Novartis touted Cosentyx's broad label and long-term clinical data as continued selling points despite Skyrizi's win.

"Psoriatic disease is more than just skin plaques," the company said. "Cosentyx is an established brand, supported by long-term five-year sustained efficacy and safety data."

The newest data will likely aid Skyrizi in its blockbuster quest as one of two likely successors to AbbVie's immunology behemoth Humira, which is expecting U.S. biosimilar competitors in 2023.

RELATED: JPM: A Humira-beating $20B in sales from Skyrizi and Rinvoq? It's possible, AbbVie CEO says

Paired with rheumatoid arthritis med Rinvoq, which landed on the market in August, Skyrizi could be part of a blockbuster duo that might eventually hit $20 billion in sales and match Humira's best year on the market, CEO Rick Gonzalez said in January.

Launched in April 2019, Skyrizi raced out to $300 million in sales in the first quarter with Rinvoq trailing far behind at $86 million in sales.

However, both drugs are pushing hard at their older rivals, with Skyrizi scoring in its head-to-head matchup with Cosentyx and Rinvoq nailing a recent face-off in RA with Bristol Myers Squibb's Orencia.

In that study, Rinvoq matched Bristol's Orencia at easing rheumatoid arthritis patients' symptoms at the 12-week mark and bested its older rival in patient remission rates. Exactly 30% of patients treated with Rinvoq achieved clinical remission at 12 weeks compared with 13.3% of Orencia patients, hitting a key secondary endpoint in AbbVie's Select-Choice trial.

Back in February, Rinvoq posted another head-to-head success, this one in-house against its predecessor drug, Humira.

RELATED: Novartis' Cosentyx chases Lilly's just-approved Taltz with long-term data in spondyloarthritis

Meanwhile, despite challengers nipping at its heels, Cosentyx managed to post $930 million in sales in the first quarter at a 19% growth clip. However, that could soon change if Skyrizi and other rivals have their way.

Earlier this month, Eli Lilly's IL-17 rival Taltz beat Cosentyx to an FDA nod in non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis, which is believed to affect more than 1 million U.S. patients each year, Lilly said.

Days later, Novartis trailed that approval with long-term data showing Cosentyx bested placebo at reducing the symptoms of non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis in patients after one year.

The 52-week data adds to earlier 16-week data that showed Cosentyx significantly reduced disease symptoms over placebo. More than 35% of patients treated with Cosentyx hit the study's primary endpoint of reducing a targeted set of disease symptoms at 52 weeks compared with 19% of patients taking placebo. At 16 weeks, 42.2% of patients hit the same mark versus 29.2% for placebo.

Cosentyx notched a European Medicines Agency approval to treat non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis in April and has already filed for regulatory approval in the U.S. and Japan.