Novartis’s Ilaris Helps Kids Cut Puberty-Delaying Steroid Use

Novartis AG (NOVN)’s Ilaris helped almost half of children with a rare form of arthritis reduce their use of steroids in a trial, sparing them side-effects that include delay of puberty and slowed growth.

Of 177 children with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, or SJIA, 45 percent were able to cut their use of the steroids that are commonly used to treat the disease, Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis said in a statement today. Those taking the drug were about one-third as likely to have a flare- up of the condition as those getting a placebo.

Novartis plans to use the data to apply for regulatory approval of Ilaris for SJIA next year, said John Hohneker, the company’s head of development for its integrated hospital care business. If approved, it would compete with Roche Holding AG (ROG)’s Actemra, cleared in the U.S. in April as a treatment for a disease that affects fewer than one in every 100,000 children.

“For these young kids to be on chronic steroids has big- time implications in terms of growth, delayed puberty, bone density,” Hohneker said. “The ability to reduce dose in a substantial number of children we think is very important.”

SJIA attacks children as young as 6 months old, and is characterized by skin rash, daily spiking fever, joint pain and swelling. The cause isn’t known.

Ilaris, also known as ACZ885 and canakinumab, is a biotechnology drug approved in the U.S. and Europe as a treatment for cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes, a group of rare immune-system disorders. Novartis is also studying it for use against cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In June it was rejected by a U.S. advisory panel as a treatment for gout.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simeon Bennett in Geneva at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at

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