A new study has found that the vast majority of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in the US being treated with Amgen’s Enbrel (etanercept) and AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab) are biologic-naïve and, therefore, taking these drugs as their first-line biologic treatment.

There are significantly greater numbers of biologic-naive patients being treated with these two drugs than of those treated with any other non-traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drug, according to the study, which is published by BioTrends Research Group.

The study also finds that, although Pfizer’s Xeljanz (tofacitinib) had been available on the market for only around six months at the time the study was fielded, nearly 60% of RA patients in the US currently being treated with Xeljanz were biologic-naïve prior to initiation, which is in line with the product’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved label. 

Patients being treated with Xeljanz who were previously receiving another agent were most commonly switched from Enbrel, Humira and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Orencia IV (abatacept), it reports.

BioTrends also reports that, according to the rheumatologists managing their care, the majority of RA patients in the audit who are being treated with Xeljanz are showing good-to-excellent pain relief, functional status and quality of life. Moreover, 81% of patients in the audit who are receiving Xeljanz have experienced partial or complete remission since commencing their treatment.

“In addition to the positive response that physicians are reporting, nearly three-quarters of Xeljanz-treated patients are showing no signs of progression of structural damage,” comments BioTrends Research Group associate director Lynn Price.

“This is an important issue for Pfizer, as they are seeking expansion of the Xeljanz RA label to include inhibition of progression of structural damage,” she points out.

The report goes on to note that the treating US rheumatologists interviewed say that they would consider switching more than half their patients who are currently being treated with Genentech’s Actemra IV (tocilizumab) to the subcutaneous form of Actemra, if it were commercially available.

In addition, treating physicians told the study that they would consider switching 22%-34% of their patients who are currently being treated with Orencia IV, and 20%-25% of their patients who are receiving Genentech/Biogen Idec’s Rituxan (rituximab) or Janssen Biotech’s Simponi (golimumab) to subcutaneous Actemra, Incyte/Eli Lilly’s baricitinib, Sanofi/Regeneron’s sarilumab or GlaxoSmithKline/Janssen Biotech’s sirukumab, if these agents were on the market.