Rheumatoid Arthritis Wins A Couple Of Rounds

Includes: AZN, LLY
by: Derek Lowe

No one told me that it was "Rheumatoid arthritis clinical disaster day for companies that have enough to worry about already," but apparently that's what it is. AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) doesn't have an awful lot in its late-stage pipeline, but one of the things in it is a Syk inhibitor licensed in from Rigel, Fostamatinib. (More accurately, that's a phosphate ester prodrug of the Rigel compound - check out the structure and you'll see why a prodrug approach might have been necessary).

That's positioned as an orally active anti-inflammatory, to go up against Humira and the like. Back in Phase IIa it looked promising, although there have been concerns about blood pressure effects (disclosure of which has led to some hard feelings among some investors). But a new trial head-to-head against Humira in rheumatoid arthritis patients, it definitely comes up short. A Phase III trial will report next year, but what are the odds that it'll turn this one into a success?

And Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) is another company that doesn't need any more bad news, but they're stopping an RA therapy, too. Tabalumab, an antibody against B-cell activating factor, is also targeting the TNF pathway. This trial was in RA patients who were not responsive to methotrexate therapy, and was halted for sheer lack of efficacy, which is disturbing, since the antibody had (up until now) shown reasonable data. Lilly says that they're suspending enrollment in the clinic until they see the results (next year) of their ongoing trials.

Disclosure: None