Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline have begun late-stage trials of their investigational rheumatoid arthritis treatment sirukumab.

J&J's Janssen Biologics unit in Ireland and the UK major have initiated a Phase III development programme for sirukumab (also known as CNTO 136), a human anti-interleukin (IL)-6 monoclonal antibody. It is being studied for the treatment of adults with moderately to severely active RA.

The programme consists of two studies, the first of which, SIRROUND-T, includes patients with active RA despite anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha therapy. The second, SIRROUND-D, involves patients with active RA despite taking disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

Jerome Boscia, head of immunology development at Janssen R&D, said "we are focused on advancing treatment options for chronic, debilitating autoimmune diseases", adding that sirukumab is "a protein therapeutic that we believe may represent an important treatment option".

GSK entered into a co-development and commercialisation license pact for sirukumab for RA with J&J in December 2011.