Roche RA Drug Actemra Wins Support of US FDA Panel



Roche is happy to announce that its rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra (tocilizumab) has won the recommending approval of the US FDA‘s Arthritis Advisory Committee.

The committee’s vote was made after Roche presented results from five Phase III clinical trials. The clinical development program evaluated the effects of Actemra on signs and symptoms of RA, physical function, progression of structural damage, and health-related quality of life.

Of these five studies, three trials were conducted in patients with inadequate response to disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), one trial was conducted in patients who failed anti tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy and one monotherapy study comparing Actemra to methotrexate, a current standard of care, was also conducted.

Results of these studies demonstrated that treatment with Actemra, alone or combined with methotrexate or other DMARDs, significantly reduced RA symptoms regardless of previous therapy or disease severity, compared with current DMARDs.

Actemra (already approved in Japan, but not yet in the US and Europe) is a novel interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor-inhibiting monoclonal antibody, for reducing the signs and symptoms in adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Actemra is the result of research collaboration by Chugai and is being co-developed globally with Chugai. Actemra is the first humanized interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor-inhibiting monoclonal antibody. An extensive clinical development program of five Phase III trials was designed to evaluate clinical findings of Actemra. T

he five studies have reported meeting their primary endpoints. Actemra is awaiting approval in the United States and Europe. In Japan, Actemra was launched by Chugai in June 2005 as a therapy for Castleman’s disease; in April 2008, additional indications for rheumatoid arthritis, polyarticular-course juvenile idiopathic arthritis and systemic-onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis were also approved in Japan.

With the FDA panel’s recommending approval, it is almost sure that the FDA will grant approval of Actemra in September.

According to William M. Burns, CEO of Roche’s Pharmaceuticals Division:

“We are pleased with the FDA advisory committee’s very positive recommendation for Actemra, which helps move this promising new therapy closer to becoming available for patients who suffer from the debilitating symptoms of RA.

Based on the compelling data presented, and this positive recommendation from the committee, we remain hopeful that the FDA will approve Actemra for the treatment of RA and provide a new option to patients who are not achieving adequate symptom relief with current therapies.”

Actemra is generally well tolerated, as reported by Roche. Now reports are saying that if the drug gets FDA approval, Actemra is a potential blockbuster. Well…from a patient’s perspective, let’s cross our fingers that the drug really works well against rheumatoid arthritis.

The overall safety profile of Actemra is consistent across all global clinical studies. Serious adverse events reported in Actemra clinical trials include serious infections, diverticular perforations and hypersensitivity reactions including anaphylaxis.

The most common adverse events reported in clinical trials were upper respiratory tract infection, nasopharyngitis, headache and hypertension. Increases in liver function tests (ALT and AST) were seen in some patients; these increases were generally mild and reversible, without injuries or any observed impact on liver function.

Laboratory changes, including increases in lipids (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides) and decreases in neutrophils and platelets, were seen in some patients without association with clinical outcomes.

Read more from the Roche press release or the report from Reuters.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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