Need for more convenient therapies, competition from generics, biosimilars spurs RA drug development

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — The increase in the number of people with rheumatoid arthritis, and the challenges posed to drug makers by generics, is encouraging the development of new drugs for the disease, according to a new report by Frost & Sullivan.

The report, released Thursday, found that the incidence of the disease was set to go from 2010's 2.4 million to 2.6 million in 2017. But the lack of a convenient and safe treatment option without adverse side effects has set the stage for a wave of drug launches in the near future, and many of those drugs could become blockbusters. Many of the injectable biotech drugs currently available for RA come with serious side effects, particularly tumor necrosis factor blockers, which work by blocking the immune-system protein that cause RA, but also can lead to dangerous and potentially fatal side effects like infections and cancer.

Drugs for RA had sales of $5.78 billion in 2010, expected to increase to $8.34 billion in 2017, the report found.

"With the number of biologics on the market and in development for RA, the RA treatment market is becoming crowded," Frost & Sullivan industry manager Jennifer Brice said. "Biologics entering this market must be able to show efficacy and safety data that is comparable, if not superior, to TNF blockers to gain any market share."

Some drugs for treating RA will soon lose patent protection and face competition from biosimilars, such as Pfizer's and Amgen's Enbrel (etanercept), whose patent expires next year. While this could increase treatment access, it also will dampen revenues for the companies that developed the treatments, meaning newer drugs are needed. Drugs under development include Pfizer's CP-690550 (tasocitinib) and Rigel Pharmaceuticals' R788 (fostamatinib), both oral medications.

 


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