Roche moves forward with injectable Actemra

Roche's ($RHHBY) bid to convert its leading biologic drugs to easy-to-use, subcutaneous injections just got another boost. The company's Genentech unit announced that Actemra, the rheumatoid arthritis treatment, delivered "clinically meaningful and comparable results" when administered under the skin.

The SUMMACTA study compared subcutaneous Actemra given weekly with infused Actemra administered every four weeks. A "similar proportion" of patients in both study arms responded to the therapy, according to a common measure of RA activity. Side-effect profiles were comparable, Roche said; full data on both will be forthcoming.

In addition to the new Actemra injection, Genentech has been working on subcutaneous formulations of the breast cancer drug Herceptin and blood cancer treatment MabThera, using technology developed by Halozyme. Earlier this year, Roche asked the EMA to approve the injectable form of Herceptin. The company says it will decide later this year--after another placebo-controlled trial of injectable Actemra wraps--whether to submit that data to the agency.

The new forms of these drugs could allow patients to inject themselves, rather than receiving infusions at a hospital or clinic. In 2010, Roche invested 190 million CHF ($208 million) in facilities to produce experimental--and eventually commercial--injection devices that would be easy and safe for patients to use.

- read the release from Genentech