Novartis Spreads Good News About Two Drugs at European Congress of Rheumatology

Published: Jun 14, 2018 By

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Novartis has walked into the European Congress of Rheumatology to make a case for two of its drugs, Cosentyx and canakinumab.

Novartis’ canakinumab, an IL-1B inhibitor, has shown remarkable clinical success in treating gout. A study presented at the congress showed that treatment with canakinumab significantly reduced the rate of gout by more than half when compared to placebo. Those results were regardless of baseline, European Pharmaceutical Review (EPR) reported this morning.

Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs due to the accumulation of urate crystals in the joints. Those crystals form when there are high levels of uric acid in the blood.

The canakinumab information was obtained as a secondary result of Novartis’ CANTOS trial, which is examining the effect of canakinumab as a secondary prevention of cardiovascular events. In the secondary analysis, participants were divided into three groups based on their serum urate level. Novartis reported that canakinumab significantly reduced the rate of gout flares by more than 50 percent. Daniel Solomon, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and investigator of the study, said the results “demonstrate a striking effect of canakinumab on reducing the risk of gout attacks in atherosclerosis patients,” EPR reported. Additionally, Solomon said the data points to serum uprate as a “risk marker” for gout and cardiovascular events. Novartis’s study though showed that canakinumab had no effect on serum urate levels.

Not only did Novartis spread the good news about canakinumab, the company also presented new data that showed Cosentyx could be a preferred treatment for the spinal disease ankylosing spondylitis. Cosentyx was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for ankylosing spondylitis in 2016. At the time it was the first interleukin-17A (IL-17A) inhibitor approved for adults with ankylosing spondylitis.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a debilitating disease caused by spine inflammation that can result in irreversible damage. Approximately 70 percent of patients will form spinal fusions, which significantly reduces mobility.

There are a number of FDA-approved treatments for AS, including Humira, Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade and Pfizer’s Enbrel.

Eric Hughes, global development franchise head at Novartis, for immunology, hepatology and dermatology, told Pharmaphorum that Novartis has data showing how Cosentyx is an effective treatment for AS and could be a preferred treatment, despite some biosimilars that are close to being put on the global market. Hughes pointed to data from two trials that demonstrated the efficacy of Cosentyx. In the MEASURE 1 trial, Hughes said about 80 percent of Cosentyx-treated AS patients had no radiographic progression of the spine at four years, according to the report. Additionally, the MEASURE 2 trial showed that Cosentyx “provides sustained improvement in signs and symptoms of AS for up to four years.” The medication maintained a consistent safety profile through that period of time, Hughes added.

Hughes also said that patients had a strong favorable opinion of Cosentyx in a quality of life study. In that study 74 percent of patients said they preferred the Novartis drug to previous treatments, Pharmaphorum reported.

In January Novartis initiated a head-to-head study comparing Cosentyx to a proposed biosimilar of AbbVie’s Humira (which is developed by Novartis’ Sandoz) as a treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. Results of this study are expected in about two years.

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