Johnson & Johnson unit Janssen-Cilag’s Stelara is more effective than Wyeth’s rival biologic Enbrel in managing moderate-to-severe psoriasis, according to results of a study led by researchers in Manchester.

Scientists at the University of Manchester headed an international head-to-head trial pitting the effectiveness of Stelara (ustekinumab) against Enbrel (etanercept) - which are both recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence as treatment for psoriasis on the NHS - in 903 patients over a 12-week period.

Their findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that a twice-weekly injection of Enbrel 50mg produced a 75% improvement in disease symptom severity in 56.8% of patients after 12 weeks of therapy, but that 67.5% of patients taking Stelara 45mg and 73.8% of those on the 90mg dose experienced the same improvement.

“Our findings show that the efficacy of ustekinumab at either dosage was superior to that of high-dose etanercept using the 75% improvement measure over a 12-week period,” noted Professor Griffiths, who is based at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester.

“Similarly, a higher proportion of patients using ustekinumab were reported to have no or minimal disease symptoms after 12 weeks than those given etanercept – 70.6% at 90mg ustekinumab compared to 49.0% receiving etanercept,” he added.

In terms of safety, both drugs seemed to cause a similar degree of adverse events in the short term, and although more injection site reactions were observed with Enbrel, this could be down to the fact that patients received more jabs than those taking Stelara, Griffiths noted.

Around 1.5 million people in the UK have psoriasis, of which around 20%-30% of cases are classed as severe, and according to Griffiths findings of the trial could help determine “the optimal approach to the treatment of psoriasis”.