Lilly asserts bragging rights over Humira for hot-selling drug Taltz

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Eli Lilly and Co. already has found quick success with Taltz, an anti-inflammatory medicine that has sold at a blistering pace since hitting the market two years ago.

Now, the Indianapolis-based drug maker has notched up another claim for the drug. Lilly said on Monday that Taltz just beat the world’s best-selling medicine, Humira, in a head-to-head clinical trial for psoriatic arthritis, a painful condition that affects 1.6 million Americans.

“It’s a chronic, progressive form of inflammatory arthritis,” said Dr. Lotus Mallbris, vice president of immunology development at Lilly. “Like any other form of arthritis, it causes swelling, stiffness and pain.”

Lilly said it tested Taltz against Humira in a randomized trial of 566 patients with psoriatic arthritis. Taltz demonstrated superiority in improving the signs and symptoms of the disorder as measured by the proportion of patients simultaneously achieving at least a 50-percent reduction in disease activity, as well as complete skin clearance, the company said.

The results, Lilly said, prove that Taltz can be used as a first-line biologic treatment for patients with active psoriatic arthritis.

And that could give Lilly a bigger claim that the drug works when it pitches it to physicians treating patients for the disease. Lilly said it plans to submit detailed data from the trial for disclosure at scientific meetings and peer-reviewed journals in 2019.

Last year, Taltz rang up sales of $559.2 million, an increase of nearly 400 percent from a year earlier, making it Lilly’s second-fastest growing product for the year, after cancer drug Lartruvo.

In the first nine months of this year, Taltz had sales of $630.4 million, up 63 percent from the same period a year ago, and eclipsing full-year sales from 2017.

Humira, made by Chicago-based AbbVie, had sales last year of $18.4 billion, up 14.6 percent. Since it hit the market in 2002 to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Humira has racked up one governmental approval after another to treat maladies ranging from your itchy, red patches on the scalp to inflammation of the colon.

AbbVie did not immediately return messages from IBJ on Tuesday seeking comment.

The Food and Drug Administration has already approved Taltz for two conditions. In 2016, the FDA approved it to treat moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. In 2017, the FDA approved it for the second use, treating adults with psoriatic arthritis.

In the meantime, Lilly is still waiting to hear whether the FDA will approve it for a third use, a type of back stiffness called ankylosing spondylitis.

The drug, also known by its generic name, ixekizumab, is administered by injection.

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