Psoriasis treatment for severe asthma worsens symptoms

A psoriasis medication that was hoped could help patients with severe asthma actually worsened symptoms, a new global study has found.

The study, led by researchers at the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre – a partnership between Leicester’s Hospitals, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University – examined the potential of risankizumab as a treatment.

The research, which was co-led by researchers in Manchester, Belgium and Canada, recruited 214 trial participants, of whom 105 were randomised to receive a risankizumab injection every four weeks over 24 weeks, while 109 patients received a placebo.

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the team says the cohort treated with risankizumab had an average time-to-first-worsening symptoms of 40 days, compared to 86 days for the patients prescribed a placebo.

When they studied gene signatures from immune cells in airway samples, risankizumab was found to decrease the molecules that protect against infection.

Study lead Professor Chris Brightling, NIHR senior investigator, said: “It is always disappointing when a potential treatment is shown to be ineffective at treating a disease, more so when it makes symptoms worse.

“We think risankizumab reduces the presence of substances in the airways that are important factors in preventing infections, which probably makes the patients’ symptoms worse. This theory is backed by molecular profiling, which shows reduced levels of these substances in samples taken from patients on the trial.”

Risankizumab in Severe Asthma: A Phase IIa, Placebo-Controlled Study. New England Journal of Medicine 27 October 2021

[Research project]

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