A new treatment option for psoriatic arthritis is now available in the UK and Ireland with the launch of UCB's Cimzia (certolizumab pegol) this week.

The drug, in combination with methotrexate, is used to treat active psoriatic arthritis in adults who have had an inadequate response to prior therapy with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

The condition, a painful inflammatory arthritis associated with the skin disorder psoriasis, can heavily impact on a patient's mental and physical wellbeing, as it affects not only the joints but visible areas of the body.

In clinical trials, Cimzia was shown to induce a "rapid improvement" in the signs and symptoms of the condition, including joints, enthesitis (Inflammation of the sites where tendons or ligaments insert into the bone), dactylics (swelling in the fingers and toes), nail disease and manifestation of skin symptoms.

"Patients seem to have a quick and effective response to this particular treatment with symptoms improving as early as week one, which is a huge positive to someone living with the emotional and psychological effects brought on by psoriatic arthritis," said Stefan Siebert, a Senior Lecturer in Rheumatology at the University of Glasgow and Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Price deal

A spokesperson for UCB told PharmaTimes that under a deal with the Department of Health Cimzia is provided free of charge for the first 12 weeks of treatment. 

This is because if patents do not respond within this timeframe they would not be suitable for long-term treatment with the drug, but those that do will experience a sustained response, across all levels of disease severity.

This also means that the annual cost of the drug is reduced to £6,792 for the first year, coming in at £9,295 a year thereafter.

There are 1.8 million people in the UK with the skin condition psoriasis; of those up to 7% have psoriatic arthritis. 

Cimzia is also approved in Europe for the treatment of moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis in adults inadequately responsive to DMARDs, and for the treatment of severe active axial spondyloarthritis in adults.