Remicade (infliximab) - a drug prescribed to treat autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis - has successfully treated moderate to severe cases of the skin disease psoriasis in a randomised trial. The results were published in the medical journal, The Lancet.
Researchers at the University of Manchester School of Medicine in the U.K. recruited 378 patients with psoriasis to intravenously receive either Remicade or a placebo at intervals for at least one year. By the tenth week, 80% of the patients treated with Remicade experienced at least a 75% improvement vs. less than 3% for placebo patients. The drug also had a positive effect on nail psoriasis, which is present in 20% to 50% of psoriasis patients.
Psoriasis is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, occuring when the body overproduces skin cells which accumulate on the surface of the skin before they mature, creating bright red patches that cause itching, burning, and stinging.
Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) - a protein in the body involved in inflammation which triggers rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's - is thought to play a part in the development of psoriasis. Remicade can neutralise the activity of TNF alpha.
The scientists reported none of the patients given Remicade had any serious side effects, but noted that the treatment is not a cure.