Janssen Biotech Outlook: Remicade Treatment for Autoimmiune Diseases

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Autoimmune diseases, as their name suggest, are diseases that occur when the body’s immune system attacks itself. While most autoimmune disease are just debilitating and require a lifetime of treatment, some can be life-threatening and fatal. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 23.5 million Americans are diagnosed with autoimmune diseases.

And while exact cures for autoimmune disease are yet to be explored, several treatment methods are already available to alleviate the symptoms that are associated with them. For instance, one of the most popular commercially available drugs is the drug Remicade (infliximab).

Uses of Remicade

            Remicade is developed and marketed by Janssen Biotech, Inc., a subsidiary company of Johnson and Johnson’s. As alluded to earlier, Remicade is used to reduce pain and inflammation caused by wide variety autoimmune diseases like psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and plaque psoriasis. Aside from that, Remicade is used to alleviate the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis in children. Moreover, it is known to treat symptoms of moderate to severe Crohn’s disease, a long-term inflammation of the digestive tract.

How does it work?

            Basically, Remicade is considered to be a biologic drug, a type of drug derived from antibodies. It is a type of protein that acts as a potent inhibitor of another protein known as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), a protein that is responsible for causing inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases.

  • While TNFα is naturally occurring, as it helps in the delivery of information between cells, too much of it can make the immune system attack itself and cause inflammation.
  • By blocking these proteins, the drug can successfully decrease the swelling and inflammation that impair the immune system, and eventually reducing the progression of the disease.

Side effects

            It is important to note that Remicade should only be used when prescribed by a physician because it may cause some mild to severe adverse reactions. Some of its side effects include respiratory infections, some allergic reactions, lower blood cell count, fever, fatigue, skin rash, and cough and flu. Furthermore, Remicade can increase the chances of developing liver and skin cancers and may even lead to the development of lymphoma.

  • Reports also show that older patients (usually more those who are more than 65 years old) have developed serious infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungi due to lowered immune defense.
  • Remicade should not be used by patients who are currently under the treatment of anakinra (Kineret), tocilizumab(Actemra) and/or abatacept (Orencia) and by patients who are allergic to the drug infliximab

Rivalry with other drug competitors

Sales from Remicade were accounted to be more than $1.8 billion, comprising more than one-fifth of the company’s sales during the third quarter of 2017. However, this high amount of sales seem to be challenged by the company Pfizer which launched Inflectra, a product biochemically similar to Remicade.

  • Basically, these drugs are “similar” but are not identical. So while they are both proven to be effective against autoimmune diseases, there’s a high possibility that medical professionals should be reserved about moving away from famous brands like Remicade.
  • The rivalry between the two product is expected to become even greater, given that Inflectra is relatively cheaper (by 15%) than Remicade.
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