GENEVA (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Apremilast showed substantial efficacy for patients with truly moderate psoriasis as defined by an involved body surface area of 5%-10% in the first-of-its-kind UNVEIL trial, Bruce Strober, MD, reported at the annual congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.

Patients with moderate psoriasis constitute a very large and underserved population, said Dr. Strober, professor and chair of the department of dermatology at the University of Connecticut, Farmington. “I would say the moderate psoriasis group defined by 5%-10% psoriasis-involved body surface area represents a gray area in our treatment. Often, people with this degree of psoriasis receive no treatment or are relegated to topical monotherapy, yet unfortunately do not respond to those treatments. Nevertheless, clinical trials for systemic therapies, including biologics, exclude this population solely because they’re under 10% involved body surface area,” he noted.

Indeed, UNVEIL was the first-ever randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial to look at the safety and efficacy of any systemic therapy in such patients, “ a large population that is in much need for treatment that reduces the burden of the disease and how it affects them in their daily lives,” the dermatologist said.

“A large percentage of my patients who are on biologic therapy have less than 10% involved body surface area and would have a PASI [Psoriasis Area Severity Index] score, if I were to measure it, of under 12. Therefore they couldn’t get into a typical registration study for moderate to severe psoriasis,” he continued.

The UNVEIL trial included a 16-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase in which 221 systemic therapy–naive patients with plaque psoriasis on 5%-10% of their body surface area (BSA) were randomized 2:1 to apremilast at 30 mg twice a day or placebo. Thereafter, the placebo group was switched over to apremilast and the trial continued in open-label fashion out to 52 weeks. Apremilast (Otezla) is approved only for use in moderate to severe psoriasis.

At baseline, participants had a mean 15-year duration of psoriasis, an involved BSA of 7.1%, a PASI score of 8.1, a static Physician’s Global Assessment (PGA) score of 3 on a 0-5 scale, and a Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) score of 11.

UNVEIL not only targeted a new population for a modern systemic therapy, it also debuted as its primary endpoint a novel metric for disease severity. Because PASI score is a relatively crude measure of change in a population with moderate psoriasis, Dr. Strober and his coinvestigators developed and employed as the primary outcome measure PGA+BSA, which can range from 15 to 30.

The mean baseline PGA+BSA was 21.8. At week 16, the placebo group averaged a 10% decrease in this metric, while the apremilast group showed a 48% reduction. At week 52, the group switched from placebo to apremilast at 16 weeks had a 42% improvement in PGA+BSA and patients on apremilast for the full study had a 49% improvement.

“So you can assume about half of patients with moderate psoriasis will experience a 50% reduction in the product of PGA+BSA on apremilast,” Dr. Strober observed.

At week 52, a PGA score of 0 or 1, meaning clear or almost clear, was present in 36% of the switchover group and 29% of patients on apremilast for 52 weeks.

A 75% improvement in PGA+BSA, or a PGA+BSA–75 response, occurred at week 52 in 45% of the switchover group and 37% of those on apremilast for the entire study.

The mean improvement in the DLQI at week 16 was 2.4 points in the placebo arm and twice that amount with apremilast. At 52 weeks, the switchover group averaged a 5.1-point reduction in DLQI from baseline and the full-time apremilast group had a 4.3-point reduction.

The incidence of apremilast-related adverse events didn’t increase over time. The main issues were diarrhea, nausea, and headache, as is the case when the oral drug is prescribed for its approved indication in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis.

In an interview, Dr. Strober said that despite the encouraging results of UNVEIL, the study is not by itself sufficient evidence to win an expanded indication for apremilast from regulatory agencies and the drug’s manufacturer, Celgene, is not interested in pursuing that course.

UNVEIL, a phase 4 study, was funded by Celgene. Dr. Strober reported serving as a consultant to and/or receiving research funding from that company and more than a dozen others.


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