Myth: Biologics Work Slowly
Biologics have demonstrated efficacy in psoriasis and often are used in psoriasis patients who have not achieved desired results with other treatments, patients who have had intolerable side effects from other treatments, and patients with concurrent diseases that preclude the use of systemic therapies. Because of the quality-of-life impact of psoriasis, patients look for quick clearance of their symptoms, but can biologics deliver fast results or do they work slowly?
Biologics such as etanercept and adalimumab block tumor necrosis factor α signaling, while ustekinumab targets IL-12 and IL-23 and others target IL-17. Some patients may begin to see improvement in skin lesions within 1 month of initiating biologic therapies because they target specific proinflammatory pathways that are critical to the pathogenesis of psoriasis, but response time varies among patients and specific therapy used.
The psoriasis area and severity index (PASI) measures psoriasis treatment success. Based on the American Academy of Dermatology’s guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis published in 2008, short-term response was achieved in 10 to 14 weeks for the following biologics:
- Adalimumab: 80% of patients achieved PASI 75 at week 12
- Etanercept: 49% of patients given 50 mg twice weekly achieved PASI 75 at 12 weeks; 34% of patients given 25 mg twice weekly achieved PASI 75 at 12 weeks
- Infliximab: 80% of patients achieved PASI 75 at week 10
Of the newer biologics, Premier Research recently noted that PASI 75 was achieved after 12 weeks with the following biologics:
- Brodalumab: 83% after 12 weeks
- Ixekizumab: 90% after 12 weeks
- Secukinumab: 80% after 12 weeks
- Ustekinumab: 70% after 12 weeks
There are a variety of factors to consider when determining which biologic to use for a psoriasis patient. These data may help in the decision process. However, dermatologists must educate psoriasis patients with a high body mass index that their disease may take longer to respond and may need combination therapy for optimal clearance.
All of the biologics, especially the IL-17 inhibitors, work very quickly to clear psoriasis. The only way they work “slowly” is that it may take time (usually a few days) for the payers to approve biologic prescriptions.
—Jashin J. Wu, MD (Los Angeles, California)