Abbott nabs new Humira use, launches Amitiza in Japan

Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) has two more pieces of good news for its soon-to-be independent pharma division. The company's flagship drug, Humira, added another indication to its growing catalog. And AbbVie launched its constipation treatment Amitiza in Japan, a drug market that's gaining importance as Europe cuts budgets and U.S. drug growth stagnates.

Humira's new approved use in Europe is for children with severe Crohn's disease. Patients aged 6 to 17 who've failed on--or are intolerant to--conventional therapies make up the target population. It may not be a huge market, but it's another incremental expansion for Humira, which has thrived by gaining one new use after another.

Originally just a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, Humira has won approvals in ulcerative colitis in Europe and the U.S., plus axial spondyloarthritis in Europe, just this year. Along with the latest approval, Humira now has 9 approved uses in Europe, with 7 in the U.S. That list of indications could help Humira withstand competition from Pfizer's newly approved rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz.

But Humira is also nearing the end of its patent life. So, new drug launches, like Amitiza's in Japan, are key to AbbVie's longer-term success. Developed in partnership with Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Amitiza was approved in Japan in June--and now it's hitting the market as the only drug for constipation not caused by organic diseases. The drug is already sold in the U.S., Switzerland and U.K. Several million people in Japan suffer from chronic constipation, Abbott says.

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