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Pfizer Says Arthritis Drug Candidate Cut Symptoms in Study

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April 15 (Bloomberg) -- Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, said its experimental rheumatoid arthritis pill reduced symptoms of the disease in a study that may help it wrest part of a $12 billion market from rivals.

The drug, tofacitinib, led to “statistically significant improvements” for patients at six months compared with a placebo, New York-based Pfizer said in a statement today. The pill met the primary goals of the study when given in a 10-milligram dose, while missing on a measure for reducing the progression of structural damage in a 5-milligram dose, the statement said.

Pfizer is competing with biotechnology companies to develop the first pill in a decade for rheumatoid arthritis, which destroys joints in 1.3 million Americans. The drug may bring annual sales of $1.4 billion to treat the disease in 2015, said Tim Anderson, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in San Francisco, in a March 21 note. If approved, it would compete with Abbott Laboratories’ Humira, Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade and Amgen Inc.’s Enbrel, injectable drugs that now dominate the market.

The results were mixed for Pfizer, since the ability to prevent structural damage is “an important attribute” for arthritis drugs, Lawrence Biegelsen, a Wells Fargo Securities analyst in New York, said in a note to clients today. “We do not believe this is a major issue for tofacitinib” as long as the structural data is better at one year, he said.

Pfizer Shares

Pfizer gained 4 cents to $20.53 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares rose 20 percent in the 12 months before today.

The study, dubbed Oral Scan Phase 3, followed 800 patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. Pfizer said researchers found no new safety concerns for the pill, which was formerly known as tasocitinib. An analysis of the results will be submitted to a future scientific meeting, the company said.

The drug is the most-advanced pill in a family of experimental treatments targeting a protein called JAK that leads to joint destruction.

The study may lessen worries about the future of Humira, which generated one-fifth of Abbott’s sales last year, said David Lewis, a Morgan Stanley analyst in San Francisco, in a note to clients.

“Reports of Humira’s death are greatly exaggerated,” he wrote. “Our sense is that expectations for tofacitinib are optimistic.”

Abbott rose 75 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $51.75 at 12:51 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Shares of the Abbott Park, Illinois-based company fell 2.5 percent in the 12 months before today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Nussbaum in New York anussbaum1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at Rgale5@bloomberg.net

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