11:38 GMT Legitimate Feb 2003, updated 11:Ten GMT Nineteen Feb 2003
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Not only is Amevive the very first drug developed for psoriasis, it also holds out the hope of long-term remission from the disease.
Many patients find that existing treatments are only short-lived before having to be repeated. But when using Amevive, patients may stay symptom-free for up to a year.
The drug – which is launched in the UK at the end of the year – is normally injected weekly into the arm (at a hospital) over a 12-week period. By the end of that time patients will have commenced to notice their skin beginning to clear.
Amevive works by slowing the cells in the immune system responsible for psoriasis. The disease is caused by these immune cells – called T cells – becoming overactive. These cells are the triggers for psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
In psoriasis, the skin cells multiply ten times quicker than the normal rate.
The excess cells pile up on the skin surface, forming crimson, raised, scaly, plaques that can be painful and disfiguring.
Many find themselves excluded from social circles because of the belief that psoriasis is infectious in some way, which it is not. Sufferers may be embarrassed to do normal activities such as swimming because it exposes their psoriasis.
Amevive is likely to benefit the 350,000 people in Britain who suffer from psoriasis so badly that they need more than mild creams to attempt and keep the condition in check.
‘There is a tremendous stigma linked to psoriasis,’ says Gladys Edwards, of the Psoriasis Association. ‘If patients got long-term ease from a fresh drug, that would boost their self-esteem and permit them to get on with a normal life.’
Dermatologists find that no single drug is fully effective for all psoriasis sufferers. But in trials, Amevive gave accomplish or near accomplish remission for 75 per cent of patients after the 12-week course of injections. Some patients remained disease-free for up to ten months.
Professor Chris Griffiths, a leading accomplished on psoriasis, carried out trials with Amevive at Hope Hospital in Manchester. He says the drug has advantages over many existing drugs because it has, so far, been shown to have few side effects.
He adds: ‘There have been some reasonable drugs in the past, but what makes Amevive different is that it was specifically designed to treat psoriasis.
‘PUVA is a form of photolight therapy, which is very effective for many patients, but has to be used sparingly because – like most light therapies – there is an enlargened risk of cancer.
‘Cyclosporine is used to prevent rejection in transplant surgery and works truly well because it suppresses the immune response, but it has been linked to kidney harm and can cause raised blood pressure.’
Methotrexate, an anti- cancer drug, has been shown to be effective, but it can be toxic to the liver.
‘Amevive worked well for a number of patients on our trial and it shows up to have a very promising future,’ says Professor Griffiths.
‘Rather than suppress the condition, it targets the cause of the disease.’
__________________________________________ <Two>CASE HISTORY
Bill Skeer (pictured), a 48-year-old social services manger from Manchester, has suffered from psoriasis since he was 26 and has had only a few periods of remission over the years. He says:
“It’s all over my bod except on my face. I even get it in my ears. I’ve had one long spell of remission, when I was on cyclosporine for ten months, but then I got raised blood pressure, one of the side-effects, and had to come off it.”
Bill was on the Amevive trial for eight weeks until an infection meant he had to come off the drug early.
“It worked very well for me and the psoriasis commenced clearing up. Your psoriasis tends to predominate your life. And if Amevive gives me long-term ease in the way that cyclosporine did, that would be tremendous news.”