UPDATE 1-Actelion's psoriasis drug meets main goal in trial
* Developing drug to treat chronic plaque psoriasis
* 46 pct of patients saw 75 pct improvement at week 16
* Plan to proceed to late-stage trials
(Adds details, background)
ZURICH, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Actelion, Europe's biggest biotechnology company, said its drug for patients suffering from the skin disease psoriasis met its main goal in a mid-stage clinical trial.
The Swiss company said on Tuesday 46 percent of patients suffering from moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis saw a 75 percent improvement in the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) at 16 weeks when treated with a 20 milligramme dose of its drug ponesimod.
This compares with a 13.4 percent improvement in patients treated with a placebo. Patients receiving ponesimod continued to show improvement after the initial 16 weeks, Actelion added.
The results are a further boost to Actelion which has seen its future brighten over the past year since its new-generation heart and lung drug macitentan beat expectations in a late-stage trial.
"This is the first time that this mechanism has demonstrated efficacy with psoriasis patients," said Guy Braunstein, head of clinical development at Actelion.
The company said it now plans to start late-stage trials for ponesimod once the data has been fully analysed.
Actelion is banking on macitentan to replace its current main drug Tracleer, which goes off patent in 2015 and is already facing competition from U.S. rival Gilead's L e tairis.
Last week, Acetlion said the U.S. health regulator had agreed to evaluate macitentan for the treatment of patients with a potentially life-threatening lung condition.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Mark Potter)