Lilly's Taltz beats out AbbVie's megadrug Humira in psoriatic arthritis showdown

Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly's Taltz won its psoriatic arthritis approval last December. (Eli Lilly)

What’s a surefire way to get noticed in any field? Beat out a behemoth. And that’s what Eli Lilly’s Taltz has just done in psoriatic arthritis (PsA).

Monday, the Indianapolis drugmaker said its anti-inflammatory player had topped AbbVie’s Humira, the world’s best-selling drug, in a study of PsA patients who hadn’t yet been treated with a biologic. At week 24, patients treated with Taltz showed more symptom improvement than those who’d taken the megablockbuster.

The showing reinforces “that Taltz effectively treats the debilitating joint signs and symptoms of active psoriatic arthritis, while also providing skin clearance," Lotus Mallbris, M.D., Ph.D., Lilly’s vice president of immunology development, said in a statement,

RELATED: Lilly's Taltz takes Cosentyx rivalry into psoriatic arthritis with new FDA nod

Taltz, initially approved as one in a wave of next-generation psoriasis therapies, has boasted a PsA green light for just over a year. And the company has touted the fact that it has clinical trial info in two distinct patient populations—those who have and those who haven’t yet received a biologic such as Humira—as a selling point.

“Up until now, the prescriber won’t have had a clinical trial to refer to" for evidence that a given drug would perform well in the second-line population," Pete Salzmann, Lilly's VP of immunology, said in an interview last year.

The new head-to-head results, though, bolster the pharma giant’s case for earlier Taltz use, providing “evidence that Taltz can be used as a first-line biologic treatment” in PsA patients, Mallbris’ statement said.

RELATED: Novartis pads Cosentyx's psoriatic arthritis lead with joint-damage label update

Unfortunately for Lilly, it’s not just Humira and its anti-TNF brethren that Taltz has to face. For one, Pfizer JAK inhibitor Xeljanz picked up its own PsA nod from the FDA the same month Taltz did. And Lilly’s drug is also squaring off against Novartis’ Cosentyx, an in-class rival that beat it to market in both psoriasis and PsA. Novartis has been doing its best to pad its PsA lead, too; in June, it added new data to Cosentyx's label showing the drug could slow down the structural joint damage associated with PsA.

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