Could an old Roche arthritis med become a pioneering PAH treatment?
- Pharma giant Roche and the UK government are teaming up to determine whether or not the firm's rheumatoid arthritis medication tocilizumab (or Actemra) may have the potential to slow the progression of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).
- Actemra was approved by the FDA in 2010 and is also indicated for treating a rare form of arthritis in children.
- While there are several treatment options for treating the symptoms of PAH, one of the most promising therapies for the condition was just cleared by the FDA at the end of December: Actelion's Uptravi, which is approved for delaying disease progression and reducing the risk of hospitalization in patients with PAH.
PAH is a devastating rare disease that chokes the flow of blood from the heart to the lungs, thereby producing a cascading series of ill effects on the rest of the body. Currently, Actelion is one of the biggest players in the PAH treatment scene. Besides Uptravi, the firm is also involved in the marketing of Veletri and Ventavis.
If the UK's National Institute for Health Research-funded trials for Roche's tocilizumab turn up positive results, it would allow the company to elbow its way into a small but immensely lucrative orphan drug market. Actelion is planning on pricing Uptravi at around the $160,000 mark (and that's actually cheaper than some of the other available options).