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Raptiva launched in first European markets

Published on 18/11/04 at 11:25am

Serono's new psoriasis treatment Raptiva has been launched in its first European markets, including the UK.

The drug is licensed to treat adults with moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis who fail to respond to or who have contraindications or intolerance to other systemic treatments including cyclosporine, methotrexate and PUVA, an ultraviolet light and drug combination treatment.

Serono is positioning Raptiva as a more tolerable and convenient alternative for patients suffering from severe psoriasis to compete with existing, orally administered products. The drug can be injected at home on a weekly basis, and does not come with some of the serious side-effects associated with older treatments such as cyclosporine and methotrexate.

Raptiva (efalizumab) is a humanised antibody which works by blocking the T-cells which cause skin cells to grow abnormally and in patients with plaque psoriasis causes lesions to form.

Despite being the first biologic to gain a licence for the treatment, Raptiva will not have the field to itself - existing biologics such as Enbrel (a TNF inhibitor licensed for the related psoriatic arthritis) are already being prescribed off-label for the condition

Enbrel and other drugs in the class - Remicade, Humira and Amevive - are expected to gain licences for the condition as early as 2005, increasing the squeeze on Raptiva even further.

Some analysts say these off-label trends could already have dented Raptiva's market share.

"It also seems that drugs like Enbrel are more effective in treating psoriasis, so the once very optimistic forecasts of Raptiva are being reduced," said a Datamonitor analyst.

In view of this, Datamonitor predicts 2007 sales will be $102 million, nearly half of the current analyst consensus, and that it will hit sales of $209 million by 2010, well below Serono's own peak sales forecast of $250 to $400 million.

Serono is planning to launch the drug in the rest of the EU this year and throughout 2005. Serono licensed the drug outside the US and Japan from US biotech Genentech, which has retained US marketing rights with partner XOMA.




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