PhotoPsoriasis – a condition that causes itchy, dry, red skin – affects approximately 3 percent of the world’s population. The symptoms can cause quite a lot of discomfort for those who suffer from it, but a new drug could prove to be effective at eliminating it.

The drug, called ixekizumab, has been tested in three large, long-term clinical trials on participants who had moderate to severe psoriasis. The results from these trials look extremely promising, with the vast majority of participants having the disease completely, or almost completely, cleared.

“This group of studies only shows very high and consistent levels of safety and efficacy, but also that he great majority of the responses persist at least 60 weeks,” said Dr. Kenneth Gordon, first author of the study and professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Astounding results

The three studies utilized a combined 3,736 participants from 21 different countries. Everyone who was enrolled in each study displayed moderate to severe symptoms of psoriasis, meaning that the disease covered 10 percent or more of their bodies.

Participants were divided into two groups to test the potency of the drug, with one group receiving doses of ixekizumab and the other receiving a placebo. Participants received injections for over a year, with researchers recording changes to the severity of symptoms and any adverse effects that developed.

By the 12th week of the study, 76.4 – 81.8 percent of participants who received doses of ixekizumab had their psoriasis classified as “clear” or “minimal” – a huge improvement from the beginning of the study period. Only 3.2% of participants who took the placebo experienced the same recovery.

After 60 weeks, 68.7 – 78.3 percent of participants who received the drug were able to maintain the improvement to their symptoms. The researchers believe that these results could translate to very high responses to the drug if it is introduced to the general public.

“Based on these findings, we expect that 80 percent of patients will have an extremely high response rate to ixekizumab, and about 40 percent will be completely cleared of psoriasis,” said Gordon.

Doing the impossible

While the results of the drug are surprising, the participants who took it did experience some side effects. These included yeast infection, inflammatory bowel disease, and slightly higher rates of neutropenia – or low white blood cell count. The researchers say that the effects of taking the drug for longer than 60 months will have to be monitored going forward.

Still, the results do indicate a bright future for the drug. After the conclusion of the trials, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the drug its approval, and the researchers believe that it might be capable of doing what they previously thought was impossible.

“Ten years ago, we thought complete clearance of this disease was impossible. It wasn’t something we would even try to do. Now with this drug, we’re obtaining response levels higher than ever seen before,” said Gordon.

The full study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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