Novartis has just released information from late-stage clinical trials for a drug that is being tested in various autoimmune diseases, such as psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. The drug, technically named Secukinumab, with the code name AIN457, was put head-to-head against Enbrel in patients with psoriasis and came out on top with far better results. The drug is an antibody-based treatment that blocks the inflammatory factor, IL-17a (Interleukin 17a), an inflammatory protein known to exist in various autoimmune disease states.

The FIXTURE clinical trial (the Full year Investigative eXamination of secukinumab vs. eTanercept Using 2 dosing Regimens to determine Efficacy in psoriasis) was performed to test subcutaneous (under the skin) injections of Secukinumab in 1,307 patients who had moderate to severe psoriasis during the course of 12 weeks of treatment. The drug was compared to placebo and to Enbrel to look at efficacy after 12 weeks and assess safety up to one year.

"These results showing that secukinumab (AIN457) is superior to Enbrel, a current standard-of-care therapy, are great news for people living with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis," said Tim Wright, Global Head of Development at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, in a press statement. "With 40-50% of people living with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis dissatisfied with their current therapies, there is clearly an unmet medical need for new therapies that act faster and longer to relieve pain, itching and other symptoms."

The full results from the clinical trial are expected to be released later this year at medical conferences. Novartis is also in the middle of mid-stage Phase II clinical trials for the drug in cases of multiple sclerosis, which is known to have IL-17a as a major inflammatory component in its disease progression.

Il-17a is produced by a type of immune cell called a T-helper 17 (Th17) CD4 cell. These cells were newly discovered within the last decade and were found to be the driving force behind many autoimmune diseases in people. These current clinical trials are the first to progress to late stage Phase III for an IL-17 blocking agent. Enbrel, the drug which was compared to Secukinumab in the current clinical trial, blocks another inflammatory protein called TNF-alpha (Tumor necrosis factor alpha), which is known to instigate inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

Other clinical trials currently recruiting for different autoimmune diseases using the drug can be found here on the U.S. clinical trials website.