Doctors in the UK will now be able to offer adult patients with plaque psoriasis continuous treatment with Wyeth Pharmaceutical’s Enbrel, following an extension to its license making it the only biologic approved for both continuous and intermittent therapy.

Around 800,000 people in the UK suffer from plaque psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disorder characterised by red scaly plaques or patches, which can be associated with co-morbidities such as a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes liver disease and clinical depression. The total cost to the UK of the disease in terms of health expenditure and lost working days is estimated to be around £3.8-£4.75 billion each year.

Enbrel (etanercept) received its European license to treat psoriasis in patients who have failed to respond to or are intolerant to standard systemic therapies such as cyclosporine, methotrexate and PUVA back in 2004, and was subsequently cleared for use on the National Health Service by the drugs cost watchdog for England and Wales, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

The extension of its licence to allow for continuous use in patients was based on data from the CRYSTEL study, which showed that the drug is able to provide long-term therapeutic benefits for patients and help achieve better management of the condition, according to the firm. Data from the trial demonstrated that, after 54 weeks of continuous therapy, disease severity as measured by the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) improved by 68% and, importantly, no new safety issues were observed.

Clinicians have welcomed the drug’s approval for continuous use as it offers more flexibility in the long-term management of the psoriasis and treatment regimens can be better tailored to address the severity of the patient’s condition and their response to therapy.