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And most patients showed an improvement in their psoriasis, according to the study. Enbrel had previously been shown to be safe and effective when used over a short period of time, but the question remained whether long-term use of the drug would be safe.
"This drug is safe for long-term use," said lead author Dr. Stephen Tyring, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "During 96 weeks of follow-up, both the safety and efficacy of the drug were very good."
Enbrel (etanercept) is a drug that blocks tumor necrosis factor, a pro-inflammatory cytokine. People with an immune disease, such as psoriasis, have too much tumor necrosis factor (TNF) in their bodies. Enbrel reduces the amount of TNF to normal levels, but it can also lower the ability of the immune system to fight infections.
In the trial, Tyring's team randomly assigned 618 people with psoriasis to 12 weeks of treatment with Enbrel or a placebo. The patents received 50 milligrams of Enbrel twice a week. After the initial 12 weeks of treatment, 591 patients from both groups continued to receive Enbrel for 84 weeks.