Rituxan, the lymphoma drug developed by
, worked better than a placebo in treating patients with rheumatoid arthritis in a phase III study, the companies said.
The study group comprised patients who had an inadequate or no response to so-called anti-TNF drugs, which generally speaking include
Johnson & Johnson's
According to Genentech and Biogen, Rituxan met its primary endpoint of a greater proportion of Rituxan-treated patients achieving a response standard defined by the American College of Rheumatology in the 24th week of treatment, compared to a placebo. Both classes of patients were taking the chemotherapy methotrexate.
The Rituxan antibody targets positive B cells that are suspected of playing various roles in promulgating rheumatoid arthritis. It's been approved as a treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma since 1997.
"These are the first phase III Rituxan data to demonstrate clinical improvement in this difficult-to-treat RA patient population. The findings add to the growing body of evidence that selectively targeting B cells may provide an important new treatment approach for this debilitating disease," Genentech said.