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Novartis psoriasis drug superior to Enbrel in study

A Novartis logo is pictured on its headquarters building in Mumbai April 1, 2013. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash
A Novartis logo is pictured on its headquarters building in Mumbai April 1, 2013. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

ZURICH (Reuters) - Novartis psoriasis drug secukinumab was superior to Amgen's Enbrel in a late-stage study, the Swiss company said on Monday, putting it in line to become the first of a clutch of new treatments to gain market approval.

A phase III trial involving 1,307 patients showed that secukinumab was more effective than Enbrel in clearing skin in patients with moderate to severe plaque-type psoriasis, a painful and unsightly skin condition that causes itching and scaling.

Novartis said it expects to present full results of the study later in the year and that it is on track to file for regulatory approval by the end of the year.

"These results, showing that secukinumab is superior to Enbrel, a current standard-of-care therapy, are great news for people living with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis," said Tim Wright, global head of development at Novartis.

Plaque psoriasis is thought to be caused by an inflammatory response initiated by the body's immune system and affects about 125 million people. Those suffering from the disease are also at a greater risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

Novartis is among a pack of drugmakers developing new treatments for psoriasis, including Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Celgene and Amgen.

Analysts at Citi expect a flood of new treatments to help to more than double sales in the psoriasis market to $7.6 billion by 2022, from $3.6 billion in 2012.

Kepler Chevreux analysts forecast peak sales of $701 million in 2020.

Shares in Novartis were trading up by almost 1.5 percent at 68.60 Swiss francs ($71.18) by 8.40 a.m. EDT, against a 1 percent rise for the European healthcare index.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by David Goodman)