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Rheumatoid arthritis treatments in Australia Posted 30/04/2021

Analysis of the treatment landscape for rheumatoid arthritis in Australia shows that AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab) and Pfizer’s Enbrel (etanercept) together make up half of total sales.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition with an immune component that causes swollen and painful joints. As of 2015, it affects over 24 million people worldwide, which represents approximately 1% of adults in the developed world.

Tissue injury in RA results partially from the action of the inflammatory molecule tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). Therefore, a number of the biological treatments used in RA target the TNF-alpha molecule. These include adalimumab, etanercept, infliximab and rituximab, which can be classified as disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

In Australia, where RA diagnoses are becoming increasingly prevalent, biological drugs available for the treatment of the condition include:

  • Abatacept (Orencia, Bristol-Myers Squibb)
  • Adalimumab (Humira, AbbVie)
  • Certolizumab pegol (Cimzia, UCB)
  • Etanercept (Enbrel, Pfizer)
  • Golimumab (Simponi, Janssen)
  • Infliximab (Remicade, Janssen)
  • Rituximab (MabThera, Roche)
  • Tocilizumab (Actemra, Roche)
  • Ustekinumab (Stelara, Janssen)

AbbVie’s Humira and Pfizer’s Enbrel are estimated to represent around half of total sales in Australia. Biosimilars are currently available for both of these products, as well as infliximab and rituximab, driving competition in the market. The Australian drug regulator approved an etanercept biosimilar as recently as October 2020 [1]. The government in Australia has also recently launched a new medicines road map and additional legislation to support substitutions [2].

According to a recent analysis from GlobalData, the market for RA treatments in Australia is expected to increase from US$214 million in 2021 to US$249 million in 2029.

Venkat Kartheek Vale, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, commented: ‘The launch of new therapies by AbbVie, Eli Lilly and Gilead and an innovative pipeline can drive the RA market positively in the future but increasing competition from biosimilars could impact the overall growth. Therefore, focus on digital initiatives could further help originator or biosimilars companies to take the competition head-on’.

Further analysis of digital marketing by the pharmaceutical companies identified branded websites for Actemra, Cimzia, Enbrel, Humira, Remicade and Stelara. Analysis of traffic to the websites revealed the highest traffic for AbbVie’s Humira and Pfizer’s Enbrel, consistent with their dominance on the market.

Venkat Kartheek Vale said competition is likely to increase further as more branded biologicals lose patent protection and new small molecule therapies enter the market.

‘While AbbVie is already ahead of others by offering digital support to Rinvoq users, recent entrants like Eli Lilly and Gilead along with a few existing players lack digital presence. Hence, it is essential for the companies to mark their presence on digital channels and deliver the required support to patients using their products’, he added.

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References
1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Australia approves etanercept and insulin aspart biosimilars [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2021 Apr 30]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Biosimilars/News/Australia-approves-etanercept-and-insulin-aspart-biosimilars 
2. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Australia launches new medicines road map and substitution policy [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2021 Apr 30]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Policies-Legislation/Australia-launches-new-medicines-road-map-and-substitution-policy

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