Astra buys up arthritis drug

AstraZeneca and Rigel Pharmaceuticals have signed a deal to develop a product for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

The London based pharmaceutical company will pay Rigel $100m (£63m) up front in a deal worth up to $1.245bn if the product is a success.

Chemically known as fostamatinib disodium, the Rigel product failed in a mid-stage Phase II study last July, but both companies are confident it can pull through in final-stage Phase 111 tests starting at the end of this year. Regulatory submissions are planned for 2013.

AstraZeneca’s previous experiences in the rheumatoid arthritis market have proven fruitless, yet it believes this drug has multi-billion dollar sales potential.

Demand for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis was worth around $13bn globally last year, having grown from $1.3bn in 1998.

Anders Ekblom, executive vice president of development, of AstraZeneca said: “There is a very real and pressing unmet medical need in the area of rheumatoid arthritis. Given the debilitating effect this disease can have on patients, AstraZeneca looks forward to working together with Rigel to continue development of this innovative investigational compound.”

Rival Pfizer currently dominates the market and is in the process of developing a competing oral rheumatoid arthritis pill.