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Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company, Novartis AG ([url=http://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/nvs]NVS[/url]) recently announced phase II data on its pipeline candidate, AIN457 (secukinumab), which is being developed for the treatment of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis on the hands, feet and nails.

Data from the double-blind phase II study showed that during the first month, weekly treatment with AIN457 helped reduce pain associated with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis on the hand and feet almost three times more than placebo (54.3% versus 19.2%).

Additionally, after 12 weeks of treatment with AIN457, 39% of the patients experienced either “clear” or “minimal” psoriasis. AIN457 was also found to reduce signs and symptoms of finger nail psoriasis in patients, when compared to placebo.

Further data presented at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV), by Novartis, for the relief in signs and symptoms of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis showed that 12 weeks of treatment with AIN457, improved the quality of life (skin-related) in 25 times more patients in comparison to placebo.

Novartis stated in its press release that plaque psoriasis affects about 2% of the world’s population, out of which more than one third of patients suffer from its moderate-to-severe form.

Novartis is currently on track with pivotal phase III studies on AIN457 and expects data in 2013. The company is planning to file for regulatory approval once phase III results are available.

Novartis is also studying AIN457 in phase II trials for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

We note already approved drugs for the treatment of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis include Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ - Analyst Report) Stelara, Abbott Laboratories (ABT - Analyst Report) Humira and Pfizer Inc. and Amgen Inc.’s (PFE - Analyst Report)/(AMGN - Analyst Report) Enbrel.

Our Recommendation

Currently, we have a Neutral recommendation on Novartis. The company carries a Zacks #3 Rank (“Hold” rating) in the short run.

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