AstraZeneca may have a lupus blockbuster-in-waiting
- In a phase 2 trial involving patients with lupus, treatment with AstraZeneca's anifrolumab 300 mg produced a response in 34.4% of treated subjects after 169 days of treatment. After one year, more than 50% of subjects were responsive.
- Over the last 60 years, the only drug approved for lupus has been GlaxoSmithKline's Benlysta.
- AstraZeneca (AZ) has forecast sales in excess of $1 billion, assuming approval.
Lupus is a severe autoimmune, connective tissue disease which targets joints, as well as major organs for half of patients with systemic lupus. It affects roughly 1.5 million people in the U.S., and 5 million people worldwide, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.
Anifrolumab works by targeting interferon—a different action mechanism than GlaxoSmithKline's Benlysta. It also reduces the need for treatment with corticosteroids. On the downside, patients reported an increased incidence of Herpes zoster, shingles, and influenza. All three side effects were easily treated with antivirals.
AstraZeneca is excited about the prospects for anifrolumab and that enthusiasm could be justified based on these results.