UPDATED: Enbrel beats rivals in rheumatologist survey

With the market for rheumatoid arthritis meds set to soar, rheumatologists weighed in on the existing drugs that provide the best outcomes for patients--and Amgen's ($AMGN) Enbrel topped the list, according to a survey by Sermo, the social network for physicians.

Enbrel was tops among 40% of physicians, followed by rival TNF drug Humira (30%) and methotrexate (10%)--not an altogether surprising trio, given methotrexate's long history of treating rheumatic diseases while Enbrel and Humira have a long track record as first-line biologics against such illnesses. Amgen and Abbott Labs ($ABT), which markets Humira, made the list of the top four companies, along with Pfizer ($PFE) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ). Those four were viewed among doctors as leaders over the past 20 years in delivering new meds in the field, according to the survey.

Remember these results, because they could change dramatically in the coming years. Frost & Sullivan projected recently that the U.S. market for RA drugs, which was $5.78 million in 2010, is poised to jump to $8.34 billion in 2017. These figures appear to depend on new autoimmune drugs hitting the market, including Pfizer's blockbuster hopeful tofacitinib. Tofacitinib is an oral drug and could be prescribed ahead of existing RA treatments such as Humira and Enbrel, both of which must be injected into patients, according to Frost & Sullivan. Rigel Pharmaceuticals and partner AstraZeneca ($AZN) are also in the final stages of developing an oral drug against RA, called R788.

While the oral meds are heading toward potential market approvals, top-selling Enbrel has recently won a patent that expands its blockage against copycat biologics (aka biosimilars) from 2012 to 2028, delaying cheaper versions of the med from the market.

"Biosimilars are expected to influence the U.S. market in the next three years to four years," Jennifer Brice, a Frost & Sullivan industry manager, said in her company's release last month. "To fight back the challenge from these generics, pharmaceutical and biotech companies need to continue to address unmet needs in the treatment of RA by developing novel medications."

- get the results of the Sermo survey here

Editor's Note: Sermo sponsors surveys that we share with FiercePharma readers, but our editors decide which surveys to cover in stories. Also, this story was updated on 12/14 and corrected with news of Amgen's patent award last month that extends patent protections on Enbrel for 17 years. We regret the omission of this information in the original version of this article.

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