Janssen-Cilag, a member of the Johnson & Johnson group, has received UK approval for Stelara (ustekinumab), a new treatment for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, a notoriously difficult-to-treat skin condition.

Approval was granted by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence after clinical studies showed patients treated with Stelara showed significant visible improvements using only a 12-weekly maintenance dosing regimen.

The 12-week regimen is a vast improvement over traditional treatments, which require as much as 104 injections a year.

Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust consultant dermatologist Dr Tony Downs said that psoriasis is an incurable chronic skin condition that leaves many patients clinically depressed.

“Stelara offers an alternative treatment for a disease that is not straightforward. Its severity can wax and wane, it can become resistant to any treatment and patients can develop side effects to many of the alternative treatment options,” Downs said.

Stelara is a new fully human monoclonal antibody with a novel mechanism of action that targets interleukin-12 (IL-12) and interleukin-23 (IL-23), naturally occurring proteins that are important in regulating immune responses and are thought to be associated with some immune-mediated inflammatory disorders, including plaque psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a chronic, non-contagious autoimmune disease resulting in the overproduction of skin cells that affects around 1.5 million people in the UK. Of this number 20–30% suffer from the severe form of the disease.