Celgene posts impressive IIb data on psoriasis

One of Celgene's mid-stage drug prospects may be getting closer scrutiny from analysts now that it's turned in promising results in a mid-stage clinical trial for psoriasis. In the trial, 41 percent of the patients in the drug arm registered a 75 percent improvement in the symptoms of psoriasis--the PASI-75 score--compared with only 6 percent of the placebo arm with a similar response. And that positions the experimental apremilast--an oral drug--as a contender with Amgen's blockbuster injectable Enbrel, the dominant drug in this market.  

Enbrel's PASI-75 score is up to 47 percent. "The expectation going into this study was that apremilast would show efficacy well below that of the anti-TNFs, and thus this is a positive surprise," Geoff Meacham, an analyst at J.P. Morgan, tells Reuters. "These mid-stage data indicates that apremilast could hit $500 million in annual sales."

Celgene recruited 352 patients for the Phase IIb trial. The drug arm was treated with a 30-milligram dose. "These results are extremely important," said Kim Papp, M.D., Ph.D. of Probity Medical Research, Canada. "The results suggest apremilast is active and may meet a significant unmet medical need: a new oral treatment for patients with moderate-to-severe psoriasis."

Celgene VP Randall Stevens says the drug is ready for pivotal trials. The market, though, barely stifled a yawn. Celgene's shares dipped after the release.

- check out Celgene's release
- here's the story from Reuters