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Novartis Announces Arthritis Drug Study Results

From Associated Press (September 16, 2011)

Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG said Friday a potential treatment for a severe form of juvenile arthritis did better than a placebo in a late-stage study measuring symptom improvements.

Novartis said nearly 84 percent of patients who took the compound, labeled ACZ885, experienced at least a 30 percent improvement in symptoms. That compares with nearly 10 percent who took a placebo.

The study focused on patients with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a rare condition marked by possibly life-long and recurrent arthritis flares that can involve a skin rash, fever and joint pain and swelling. Novartis presented results at the 2011 European Pediatric Rheumatology Congress in Belgium.

Results from a second, late-stage trial that studies whether ACZ885 can extend the time between flares and reduce or eliminate corticosteroid use will be presented later this year, the drugmaker said.

The drug, which goes by the generic name canakinumab, is approved in the U.S., the European Union and other markets as a treatment for cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes, a group of conditions including joint pain, rash, fever, and fatigue.

Earlier this year, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended against approving it as a treatment for the inflammatory disease gouty arthritis. Novartis said the panel did not endorse the drug's safety, noting that in clinical trials, 69.6 percent of patients who took the drug experienced side effects. That compared with 57 percent of patients treated with injectable steroids.

U.S. traded shares of Novartis fell 46 cents to $55.99 in afternoon trading, while the Dow Jones industrial average rose less than 1 percent.


Posted: September 2011