Psoriasis Drugs Strike Immune Targets

Medical Author: Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.

Nov. 20, 2003 -- Psoriasis is a common skin disease that cannot be cured but can be treated. There are a growing number of options for the treatment of psoriasis. Among them are two drugs called Raptiva (efalizumab) and Enbrel (etanercept). Reports of the efficacy of these two drugs appear today along with an editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the skin and causes new skin cell growth to be too rapid. This produces thick, red, scaly, inflamed patches on the skin. Psoriasis affects about 4.5 million Americans. Plaque psoriasis, the most common form of the disease, is characterized by inflamed patches of skin topped with silvery white scales. Psoriasis can be limited to a few spots or involve extensive areas of the body, appearing most commonly on the scalp, knees, elbows and trunk.

Raptiva (efalizumab)

This drug was approved late last month by the FDA for the treatment of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. Raptiva is a form of biologic therapy. It is a humanized monoclonal antibody that inhibits the activation of T cells which are responsible for the symptoms of psoriasis. The drug can be self-administered by patients as a single, once-weekly, subcutaneous injection.