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Eli Lilly's Taltz performs better than Abbvie's Humira in a head-to-head study

Eli Lilly and Co.'s psoriatic arthritis medicine Taltz performed better than Humira, the world's best selling drug for 2017, during a head-to-head clinical trial in patients who had an insufficient reaction to a common type of arthritis drugs.

The head-to-head trial called Spirit compared the safety and efficacy of Taltz, or ixekizumab, with AbbVie Inc.'s Humira, or adalimumab, in 566 patients with active psoriatic arthritis, a disease that causes swelling, stiffness and pain in and around the joints. The disease also causes a rash, changes in the nails and overall fatigue.

The trial specifically involved patients who had previously received a certain category of arthritis drugs known as biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, but experienced inadequate results, Lilly said in a Dec. 17 press release. Participants of the phase 3b/4 trial were randomized to receive one of the therapies in the open-label study. Both Humira and Taltz are injectable medicines.

At 24 weeks, a larger proportion of patients receiving Taltz achieved more than 50% reduction in disease activity compared with patients getting Humira. Lilly will share detailed data from the trial in 2019.

Lotus Mallbris, vice president of Lilly's immunology department, said results from the study reinforce that Taltz effectively treats the debilitating joint pain and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. The therapy also provided skin clearance. According to Mallbris, the clinical trial suggests that Taltz can be used as an initial treatment for patients with active psoriatic arthritis.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved Lilly's Taltz injection to treat adults with active psoriatic arthritis as well as moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis who are candidates for systemic therapy or phototherapy. The drug also reduced sexual difficulties caused by genital psoriasis in a phase 3b trial, prompting a label update approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.