Abbott Laboratories ( ABT) said the European Medicines Evaluation Agency has granted a positive opinion on Humira, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, and the regulatory body is expected to issue an authorization for marketing the drug in European Union countries in about 90 days. Humira is designed to treat moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis in adults when the response to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, including methotrexate, has been inadequate. To ensure maximum efficacy, Humira is given along with methotrexate, but it can also be administered alone, if necessary. Abbott filed for European Union approval for Humira in April 2002. The company will ship the drug to pharmacies in Germany and the U.K. within two weeks of receiving marketing authorization. Availability in other E.U. countries will come in subsequent months as each country adopts pricing and reimbursement policies. The Food and Drug Administration
approved Humira for U.S. marketing on Dec. 31, and since then six additional countries have given the drug the green light. Shares of Abbott were gaining 96 cents to $42.36.