updated 11/4/2003 6:33:48 PM ET 2003-11-04T23:33:48

A new drug for the itchy-skin condition psoriasis won the Food and Drug Administration’s approval Monday. Raptiva was developed by the companies Genentech and Xoma and is an antibody intended for treatment of moderate to severe psoriasis in people at least 18 years old.

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Genetech spokeswomen Tara Cooper said the drug should be available by Thanksgiving. She said the average patient would pay more than $14,000 annually for weekly injections of the drug.

The chronic skin condition is thought to form when the immune system runs amok and cells called memory effector T cells prompt skin inflammation. The condition, characterized by inflamed skin with scaly patches, affects about 1.5 million Americans.

Raptiva, known by the technical name efalizumab, is intended to keep the T-cells that cause the inflammation from binding to other cells in the skin.

The National Psoriasis Foundation said clinical trials found side effects of the drug included moderate flu-like symptoms with the first few doses and occasional headache, chills, upset stomach and fever.

In January the FDA approved another new treatment for psoriasis called Amevive, also designed to target the T-cells involved in development of the condition.

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