Patients taking drugs manufactured by Pfizer, Eli Lilly & Co., and AbbVie for arthritis may find new warnings attached to those medications. The FDA is seeking additional language warning of serious side effects and possible fatalities associated with the drugs.
The medications are part of a class of arthritis drugs known as JAK inhibitors. They work by blocking enzymes in the body known to cause arthritic inflammation while also targeting chronically painful autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis.
The most commonly known of these medications is likely Pfizer’s Xeljanz. Studies of Xeljanz patients appeared to show an increased risk of cancer, as well as heart-related side effects among those taking the drug. Lilly’s Olumiant and AbbVie’s Rinvoq medications are in the same class of drug as Xeljanz and work by using the same types of mechanisms as Xeljanz to bring relief to those taking them. Given the similarities between the drugs, the warnings have been issued across the class rather than targeting Xeljanz specifically.
The news hit the market with a fair amount of force. Shares of AbbVie closed 7% lower for the day while Pfizer and Eli Lilly took similar but slightly softer hits. Lilly appears to have been the only manufacturer willing to issue a statement on the matter and, predictably, the company came to its drug’s defense. “Based on available data across approved and investigational indications,” the company said, “we remain confident in the positive benefit-risk profile of Olumiant.”
AbbVie’s RinVoq medication had been getting attention as the company sought to expand its use to patients suffering from psoriatic arthritis, atopic dermatitis, and ankylosing spondylitis. The current situation with the medication has put those plans on hold and the company and its investors have entered a holding pattern while regulators decide what additional action they may take.