Belgium-based pharmaceutical company UCB is on the threshold of a major breakthrough in the treatment of psoriasis, a chronic skin condition thought to affect 2-4% of people, mainly adults.
The candidate medication, known as bimekizumab, has received a positive advice from the Committee for Medical Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). If that advice is accepted by the European Commission, the product can come into circulation for medium-to-severe cases of psoriasis, under the name Bimzelx.
“This positive CHMP opinion is an important regulatory milestone for the approval of bimekizumab in Europe,” UCB said in a press release.
Psoriasis has no known cure, but there is a variety of treatments on offer, including steroid creams, vitamin D3 cream, ultraviolet light, and immunosuppressive drugs.
Bimekizumab, or bime as it is better known, works by operating on two of the cytokines – proteins in the body that communicate messages to cells – thought to be instrumental in provoking an outbreak of the condition.
If the medication is approved, analysts forecast a potential market value for UCB in the billions of euros, such is the demand for effective treatments for not only psoriasis, but also similar auto-immune conditions like psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammation of the joints in the spine.
The EMA advice will unlock that door to some extent; just as important is the advice of the
Federal Drugs Administration in the US, expected later in the year. Because of higher drugs prices in the US, pharmaceuticals companies are able to make relatively more there than in Europe.
Approval could not come at a better time for UCB. In the coming decade, the company’s big earner, Certolizumab pegol, sold under the brand name Cimzia, will go out of patent, opening the door to the production of generics and marking the end of UCB’s monopoly.
Cimzia is also used for the treatment of conditions like Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, but works in a different way.