The new oral janus kinase inhibitor approved on Nov. 6 by the Food and Drug Administration is likely to be embraced by those rheumatoid arthritis patients who have found infection and infusions of biologics to be needling.
The Janus kinase inhibitor (JAK) tofacitinib, a drug that has the promise to change the treatment experience for some patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), has been approved to treat adults with moderately to severely active disease who have not responded adequately to or cannot tolerate methotrexate.
Tofacitinib is a small-molecule inhibitor of the JAK pathway of inflammatory cytokines that play a role in the pathogenesis of RA, and is the first drug in this class of oral drugs to be approved for RA.
Dr. Eric L. Matteson said in an interview that he plans to offer this drug to patients with active disease. While some patients may embrace the idea of taking a pill, those who do not mind the needles because of their convenience and efficiency may opt to stay on their injected therapy. Of the nine biologic agents on the market currently for RA, four are infused and the others either are taken as subcutaneous injections or self-administered subcutaneously via a prefilled syringe. One of the four infused drugs is available as a prefilled self-administered syringe as well, with another biologic maker about to launch such a product.
Dr. Larry Greenbaum, a rheumatologist in Greenwood, Ind., recalled that before the introduction of biologics, "I thought patients would never accept parenteral medications, but almost all of them do accept these medications when they see how well they work. A pill will certainly be more welcome than an injection for most patients. But the Enbrel SureClick and the Humira Pen are very easy to use, so I don’t think patients are going to be breaking down the doors demanding this medication just so they don’t have to give themselves an injection!"
When asked where the new JAK inhibitor would fit into his own therapeutic lineup, Dr. Greenbaum noted that "the number of biologic medications is increasing all the time, and my conservative approach is usually to park the new medication at the bottom of the treatment algorithm until I have some compelling reason to use it sooner. No matter how good this medication is, it will have some very stiff competition from the available biologic drugs that work well and have long clinical track records."
In contrast, Dr. Karmela K. Chan, a rheumatologist in Pawtucket, R.I., said, "I definitely have patients who are completely opposed to any kind of injection, and, given a choice, they would rather take an oral drug. Several patients have asked me about switching from their injectable drug to an oral drug that they\'d already heard of.
"I don’t think I will switch most patients over. If something works, I tend not to want to mess with it. For new patients, I suspect my pitch will still be for the anti-TNF agent. I feel it is prudent to use agents that have been around longer. Another question will be how much more comfortable we are with how much information we have about potential adverse effects. However, I will most likely also present the option of the oral drug."