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Etanercept and adalimumab 'equally popular' in rheumatologist poll

Published on 02 March 2011

A poll of rheumatologists has found that virtually the same percentage believe etanercept (brand name Enbrel) and adalimumab (brand name Humira) to be the most effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.

Research firm Decision Resources found that 43 per cent of rheumatologists cited etanercept as their recommended treatment option, while 42 per cent preferred adalimumab.

Among pharmacy directors, 50 per cent selected adalimumab and 40 per cent chose etanercept, while none opted for rituximab or tocilizumab.

Dr Irene Koulinska, an analyst at Decision Resources, suggested that tocilizumab's apparent lack of popularity among rheumatologists was probably due to its relatively infrequent use, as the drug was only launched in 2010.

She observed: "Although tocilizumab has demonstrated efficacy in clinical trials comparable to that of the TNF-alpha inhibitors, less familiarity with the agent is the likely driver behind the low number of surveyed rheumatologists who selected it as having the best efficacy or best overall clinical profile among currently available therapies."

Some analysts believe that abatacept (Orencia) could soon become the gold-standard treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, ahead of etanercept, thanks to its advantages in terms of safety and tolerability.

Abatacept in combination with methotrexate is currently recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence as a treatment option for rheumatoid arthritis patients in whom rituximab therapy is contraindicated or withdrawn.

A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK, which pioneered and developed anti-TNF therapy – the class of drugs to which etanercept and adalimumab belong – for rheumatoid arthritis, said that both drugs had proven to be enormously effective in reducing the symptoms of many types of inflammatory arthritis, and had transformed the treatment of these conditions in the past decade.

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