Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that affects about 2% of the Western population. It causes very painful joint swelling that can leave a person hardly able to function. Treatment for this can be complicated, and very expensive. For a long time, Humira has been the go-to drug for treating psoriatic arthritis.
But a new drug called Cosentyx is on the market, and it turns out it may be taking the throne. It has performed very well in trials comparing it to Humira, and as it happens, it’s cheaper, too! Read on to learn more about Humira vs. Cosentyx and how they help with psoriatic arthritis.
What Is Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling in different parts of the body. It is related to psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that causes red patches covered with silvery scales to pop up all over the body. Usually, a patient develops psoriasis first, but sometimes the arthritis symptoms can show up first.
With psoriatic arthritis, one part of the body will swell up and become very painful for a short period of time before it returns to normal. Then the arthritis moves on and attacks a different part of the body. Fingers, toes, feet, and the low back are common problem areas.
What is Cosentyx
Cosentyx, a new drug recently released by Novartis, is what is known as an IL-17 inhibitor. In essence, psoriatic arthritis is caused by the immune system making too many inflammatory proteins known as cytokines. These cytokines attack the body, causing the swelling and pain that comes with psoriatic arthritis.
Cosentyx keeps the body from making too much of a particular cytokine known as interleukin. While this does keep the immune system from working as well, it also stops it from attacking the body. Cosentyx was the first IL-17 inhibitor to hit the market.
What is Humira
Humira is a drug made by AbbVie that is meant to block TNF. Your immune system makes a substance called tumor necrosis factor. Normally, TNF acts as a part of the immune system, but if you have psoriatic arthritis, your body may make too much.
Much like Cosentyx, Humira works to keep your body from making too much of certain substances that cause swelling. Humira has to be taken roughly every ten days and it is very painful to take. Both Humira and Cosentyx are given as shots, but Cosentyx is only taken once a month.
The ACR Scale
A recent study compared the difference between Humira and Cosentyx. To do this, they looked at improvement on the American College of Rheumatology’s scale. The scale looks at several factors and ranks how much the patient improves from the start of treatment to the present. This is ranked by 20 percent improvement, 50 percent improvement, and 70 percent improvement.
The ACR scale looks at five main factors: inflammation, patient assessment, physical assessment, pain scale, and a disability/function questionnaire. If you show improvement on three of these five factors, you will get a higher score on the scale. So, for example, if your inflammation, rating on the pain scale, and results on the function questionnaire have all improved by 20 percent, you get an ACR score of 20.
Humira vs. Cosentyx: Improvement in ACR Scores
In recent studies, Cosentyx patients have consistently improved more on their ACR scores than Humira patients. One study looked at improvement over 48 weeks. Two groups took different amounts of Cosentyx (150 mg and 300 mg, respectively), and a third took Humira.
Of the people taking 150 mg of Cosentyx, 79 percent scored at least ACR20, 68 percent scored at least ACR50, and 39 percent scored ACR70. The people who took 300 mg of Cosentyx had 82 percent score at least ACR20, 73 percent score at least ACR50, and half score ACR70. The Humira patients only had 56 percent score at least ACR20, 44 percent score ACR50, and 30 percent score ACR70.
Better Safety Profile
Anytime someone releases a new medication, one of the biggest questions is the risk factor. Medications have side effects, and we all want to make sure the risks don’t outweigh the rewards. As it turns out, Cosentyx has a better safety profile than Humira.
Warnings for Cosentyx include the risk of infection in some patients, as well as additional risks for patients with tuberculosis or irritable bowel syndrome. And, as with any medicine, if a patient shows hypersensitivity, there can be some major problems. Humira carries many of these same risk factors, as well as a risk of malignancy tied to rare kinds of lymphoma.
The last major question someone is likely to ask when it comes to medicine is the ever-painful, “How much does it cost?” Humira and Cosentyx are both biologics, meaning they can be very expensive. Cosentyx is the first fully-human biologic of its kind available.
Far from making Cosentyx more expensive, however, the Cosentyx cost is actually lower than Humira cost. In that same 48-week study, the patients had to pay up to a little over $150,000 for 150 mg of Cosentyx, or roughly $115,000 for 300 mg. Humira patients had to pay as much as nearly $152,000.
Finding the Best Treatment for You
When it comes to the Humira vs. Cosentyx debate, Cosentyx seems to be winning out. The next few years will be the real test, but at the moment, the new kid on the block seems to be taking over. After all, who can argue with better treatment, fewer risks, and lower prices?
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