After a year, about 66 percent of those taking briakinumab had a 75 percent improvement in their PASI score compared to almost 24 percent for those on methotrexate, according to the study.
Briakinumab works by dampening the immune system response that causes psoriasis, said Bruce Bebo, director of research and medical programs for the National Psoriasis Foundation, based in Portland, Ore.
More serious infections were seen in people taking briakinumab (2.6 percent) vs. those taking methotrexate (1.8 percent). There were also two cases of cancer in people taking briakinumab and none in the methotrexate group. However, the researchers said these differences weren't statistically significant.
"Cancer risk is extremely hard to define, and this study was not powered to detect any difference in the risk of developing a malignancy," said Bebo.
He said that in an earlier trial of briakinumab, some unexplained major adverse cardiac events occurred. At the time, Abbott withdrew its application for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pending further research. In the current study, no serious cardiovascular events were reported.
Of the increased infections and cancers, Reich said, "Although these differences were not statistically significant, they lead to questions regarding a favorable risk-benefit profile of the drug."
Research on briakinumab is continuing. An ongoing three-year trial involves 248 people from the current study.
For people living with psoriasis, Bebo said the message from this study is that "dramatic progress has been made from where we were just five years ago."
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