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Trial for cheap medicine for rheumatoid arthritis soon

Biosimilar medicine is similar to original one used for rheumatoid arthritis patients and it will help bring down the medicine cost by 50 per cent.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas |
October 13, 2012 3:52:31 am

Biosimilar medicine is similar to original one used for rheumatoid arthritis patients and it will help bring down the medicine cost by 50 per cent.

Biological drugs may have helped contain rheumatoid deformities but their cost is prohibitive. For instance,a course of four injections for relief from rheumatoid arthritic pain costs Rs 2-3 lakh. But now,biosimilar — a medicine similar to the highly expensive original biological drug – has been manufactured and will be tested in a multi-centric clinical trial among rheumatoid arthritis patients across the country to bring down the cost by 50 per cent.

Biosimilars are generic versions of biological medicines that depend on the same mechanism of action and are used for the same therapeutic indication as the innovator product. Now,a new monoclonal antibody,similar to Remicade drug used for treating rheumatoid arthritic,has been manufactured for the first time by Reliance Life Sciences and will be tested on 189 patients.

Dr Arvind Chopra,Director at Centre for Rheumatic Diseases,and one of the investigators of the clinical trial in Pune told The Indian Express that with the patents of biologic drugs beginning to expire in the next two-three years,several manufacturers have geared up for the next big — biosimilars — as they promise a potential for more affordable therapy.

In the June issue of Indian Journal of Rheumatology,Chopra has focused on how biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD) have revolutionised the management of several rheumatic disorders,especially those with autoimmune inflammatory disorders. The prevalence of clinical RA recently reported by the WHO ILAR COPCORD (community oriented program for control of rheumatic diseases) urban and rural surveys in India varied from 0.45 to 0.68%. This translates into more than 10 million of RA patients with an aggressive crippling disease,Chopra pointed out.

Biologic DMARD are now extensively used in several parts of the world and rheumatologists became hopeful of preventing rheumatoid deformities and other co-morbidities.

When contacted,Dr K Mahendranath,former president of Indian Rheumatology Association,told The Indian Express from Bangalore that access to biologics has been restricted due to its exorbitant cost.

Treatment with biologic drugs like infliximab,etanercept and others are extremely expensive (cost ranges from Rs 70,000 for drugs per month to Rs 5 lakh for four injections).

The trial has been approved by Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). The trial will get under way at several trial sites,including New Delhi,Pune,Hyderabad,Bangalore,Chennai.

Dr L Duggal,Head of the department of rheumatology at Sir Gangaram Hospital,New Delhi,and among the clinical trial investigators,when contacted,said it was an important clinical trial and if it works,prices of the medicine for treating RA can be considerably reduced,Duggal said.

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