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New research shows the drug efalizumab may reduce symptoms of psoriasis and improve patients’ quality of life.//

Researchers from Loyola University studied more than 550 patients who had psoriasis. Patients received weekly injections of efalizumab (Raptiva) or a placebo for three months. Researchers evaluated the extent of each patient’s condition and rated the degree of scaling and thickness. Patients also completed a questionnaire that measured their quality of life and severity of symptoms.

Results of the study show patients who received efalizumab experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms and quality of life. Patients were considered to have improved if they scored at least 75 percent on the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index. Twenty-seven percent of the patients treated with efalizumab scored at least 75 percent, while only 4 percent of patients in placebo group achieved this score. Patients who took efalizumab also reported a better quality of life than those in the placebo group.

Efalizumab is a biologic drug that blocks immune cells. Researchers say the drug modulates T-cells, which bolster the body’s immune response. Kenneth Gordon, M.D., from the Loyola Psoriasis Center, says, “Biologics are injected, instead of swallowed and block immune cells that produce the dry, flaky skin.”

Psoriasis is triggered by an immune system response that causes skin cells to grow too quickly. The skin cells do not mature normally, and the skin piles up, causing red, scaly lesions to form. About 5 million people in the United States are affected by psoriasis. There is currently no cure, but researchers say new treatments, including biologics, are helping to improve the condition for many patients.

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