AbbVie's Rinvoq backs up eczema case with 2nd pivotal trial win

AbbVie hopes that immunology launch Rinvoq will help pick up the slack from Humira's expected decline. (AbbVie)

With Humira in its waning days as a megablockbuster, AbbVie is looking to rheumatoid arthritis launch Rinvoq to help pick up the slack. With a second pivotal trial win in atopic dermatitis—also known as eczema—under its belt, Rinvoq could be looking at a major regulatory approval in the near future.

Rinvoq topped placebo in reducing atopic dermatitis symptoms and clearing patients' skin after four months of treatment with two separate doses, according to data from a phase 3 study released Tuesday.

In the Measure Up 2 study—Rinvoq's second pivotal trial in eczema—60% of patients treated with a once-daily, 15-milligram dose of AbbVie's drug saw a 75% reduction in symptoms after 16 weeks, compared with 13% of those on placebo. At a higher, 30-milligram dose, 73% of patient treated with Rinvoq hit the same mark. 

On the study's co-primary endpoint, 39% and 52% of patients on the 15- and 30-milligram doses, respectively, achieved clear or mostly clear skin at four months compared with just 5% of patients on placebo. 

The Measure Up 2 study is ongoing and full results are expected at a later date, AbbVie said. 

Rinvoq's trial win is its second in as many months in atopic dermatitis, a market where AbbVie is hoping the JAK inhibitor can take a swing at blockbuster Dupixent from Sanofi and Regeneron. 

RELATED: AbbVie's Rinvoq scores pivotal trial win in eczema. But do dermatologists trust JAK inhibitors?

In June, AbbVie unveiled top-line results from the phase 3 Measure Up 1 study for Rinvoq, which topped placebo in terms of reducing symptoms and clearing skin at 16 weeks. 

In a note to investors at the time, SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges said Rinvoq's data could help it secure a place as the standard of care for patients who cannot tolerate or don't respond to biologics like Dupixent. But winning previously untreated patients will be a challenge, Porges said, due to Rinvoq's JAK class warning label. 

"Despite the compelling efficacy results (potentially superior to Dupixent) and a consistent safety profile, we expect Rinvoq to capture only limited share in the first-line setting given its class labeling of serious infection, malignancy and thrombosis warnings," Porges wrote. "For most younger patients, Dupixent is still likely to be the first choice given its combined robust efficacy and remarkable safety."

RELATED: How to get to $11B? For Sanofi and Regeneron's Dupixent, 5 new approvals would help

Even so, Porges said three pivotal trial wins in atopic dermatitis—two down, so far—and a green light from regulators could be a boon for Rinvoq's sales. 

An eczema nod could chip in up to $2 billion in peak sales to SVB's forecast of $5 billion per year in peak sales without it, Porges said.

But Dupixent, with $832 million in first-quarter sales, is also on the move. In June, the drug scored an approval in China to treat atopic dermatitis, expanding its marketing range to 60 countries.

Earlier in the month, Sanofi and Regeneron laid out a plan to get Dupixent up to $11 billion in annual sales, centered on adding five new indications: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, eosinophilic esophagitis, prurigo nodularis, chronic spontaneous urticaria—otherwise known as chronic hives—and bullous pemphigoid.