According to Bloomberg, injectable drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (also commonly referred to as biologics) rake in $12 billion in annual sales. Pfizer is now developing a pill, called tasocitinib, that would rival the injectables -- if clinical trials conclude it is safe and effective and if it ultimately is approved by the FDA.
Tasocitinib targets a protein known as JAK, so it is classified as a JAK inhibitor (Janus Kinase inhibitor). The Pfizer study is the first late-stage JAK trial -- one of 6 it intends to complete by the end of 2011. Three other biotech companies are trying to catch up to Pfizer with their development of JAK inhibitors. Analysts suggest Pfizer's tasocitinib is two years ahead of the others in development.
There is some concern that tasocitinib may raise cholesterol levels. Conceivably, that could be a treatable side effect -- but whether patients already getting relief from Enbrel, Remicade, or Humira would be drawn to tasocitinib remains to be seen. At this point, tasocitinib is definitely worth keeping an eye on as development moves forward.
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