J&J says its psoriasis drug superior to Novartis' in study

(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson said on Wednesday its drug Tremfya was more effective than a rival medicine from Novartis AG, and met the main goal of a late-stage study in adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.

The study involving 1,048 participants showed Tremfya was superior to Novartis' Cosentyx in reducing the severity and area of the body affected by the condition, which causes dry, flaky and itchy skin patches, J&J said.

After 48 weeks of therapy, 84.5 percent of the patients treated with Tremfya showed 90 percent improvement in disease symptoms, as measured by the Psoriasis Area Severity Index (PASI), while only 70 percent of those treated with Cosentyx showed similar results.

However, J&J said Tremfya was not superior to Cosentyx in demonstrating quicker effectiveness.

"Results of the study confirm a slightly more rapid onset of response with Cosentyx, but most importantly, in a chronic disease like psoriasis, these data provide new insights into comparative longer-term efficacy," Richard Langley, lead investigator of the study, said.

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes an overproduction of skin cells, resulting in inflamed, red lesions or plaques, which can be itchy and painful.

About 7.5 million Americans live with plaque psoriasis, of which 20 percent have moderate to severe form of the disease, the company said.

Tremfya, first approved in July 2017 as a plaque psoriasis treatment in the U.S., is also being tested as a treatment for psoriatic arthritis and Crohn's disease.

Cosentyx, which has been approved in the U.S. for plaque psoriasis, scalp psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a key sales driver which raked in $2.1 billion for the drugmaker in 2017.

(Reporting by Manogna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)