Stelara Recommended to Treat Psoriatic Arthritis in the United Kingdom

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in United Kingdom has recommended Janssen's Stelara for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis, adding to its recommendation of the drug already to treat plaque psoriasis.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom has recommended Stelara (ustekinumab) as treatment for active psoriatic arthritis patients, according to media reports. As recently as the end of 2014, NICE was leaning toward rejecting the treatment for patients.

Stelara, from Janssen, is a drug intended to treat adults aged 18 years or older with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. In studies, the patients taking Stelara experienced 20 percent greater improvement in their joint symptoms at about 24 weeks follow up. Similarly, 6 out of 10 participants saw at least 75 percent clearer skin, the drug website advertises.

The drug targets patients whose response to prior use of non biological disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) therapy has been unsuccessful. Additionally, the drug is recommended for patients who have been treated with one or more TNF alpha inhibitors like Simponi (golimumab, from Janssen), Remicade (infliximab, from Janssen), Humira (adalimumab, from AbbVie), and Enbrel (etanercept, from Pfizer).

“We are delighted with today's recommendation from NICE,” said Peter Barnes, the medical director at Janssen UK. “We know that people living with psoriatic arthritis are in real need of additional treatment choices that can help them manage a debilitating and often painful condition. Ustekinumab could have a marked positive impact of the quality of life for many of these patients living with active psoriatic arthritis and represents an important additional treatment option for this condition.”

NICE has included in its recommendation the stipulation that Stelara is to be used after other methods of treatment have already been tried. This means that in the UK, it will not be funded as a first line therapy, which could impact its sales potential, one article speculated.

Previously, NICE aimed to reject the drug due to the high patient cost. However, their decision was swayed after a patient access program was offered by Janssen which cuts the price of the medicine. This program aids the inclusion of the drug into the National Health Service’s (NHS’s) funding stream. The drug was already recommended by NICE to treat plaque psoriasis.

“We know that [Stelara] is an effective treatment option, which works in a different way to other licensed therapies,” said honorary consultant rheumatologist at Leeds NHS Trust Teaching Hospitals Professor Dennis McGonagle. “The ability to prescribe varied treatment options is of the utmost importance when managing patients with active psoriatic arthritis, given that so many patients struggle to find a treatment which works for them with some patients also experiencing toxicities from the available treatments.”