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Amgen’s Sensipar: First-ever Approved Drug for the Treatment of Secondary Hyperparathyroidism

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Hyperparathyroidism is the medical condition that occurs due to the excessive production of parathyroid hormone from one or more of the parathyroid glands in the body. Apparently, two types of hyperparathyroidism exist: primary (enlargement of the parathyroid glands) and secondary (a parathyroid disease caused by low calcium levels). Between the two, the occurrence of primary hyperparathyroidism is more common. Because of that, the latter is often harder to diagnose and to treat.

Basically, secondary hyperparathyroidism is caused by another disease that lowers the calcium levels in the body. As a result, the parathyroid glands resort to the overproduction of the parathyroid hormone in order to compensate for the loss of calcium.

To date, the treatment for secondary hyperparathyroidism remains a challenge for physicians and patients. The good news about this is that there are already commercially FDA (Food and Drug Administration)-approved drugs to treat this condition. One of these drugs is Sensipar. Let’s take a closer look.

Uses of Sensipar

Considered as one of Amgen’s biggest moneymakers, Sensipar  (cinacalcet) is a drug used to treat the medical condition hyperparathyroidism in patients undergoing long-term dialysis for kidney diseases. Aside from that, Sensipar also works in lowering the levels of calcium in the blood in patients with parathyroid gland cancers.

  • Sensipar is considered to be the first-ever drug to be used as a treatment for the aforementioned diseases.
  • Basically, the increased levels of parathyroid hormone in the blood stimulate the osteoclastic (breaking down of bones) activity in the bones. The main function of Sensipar is to lower the level of this hormone, as well as the levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. By doing so, it prevents the progression of the disease and the consequences associated with it.

Side effects of Sensipar

In clinical trials, some of the most common side effects of Sensipar include vomiting, nausea, fatigue, and diarrhea. Sometimes, Sensipar may also lead to the development of more serious side effects like gastrointestinal bleeding, bone disease, and low blood pressure.

  • When using Sensipar, care should be taken by patients with hypertension, heart disease, liver problems, and epileptic seizures. It is also important to note that Sensipar should not be taken by people with hypoglycemia (low calcium levels in the blood).

Status of Sensipar in the global market

Because Sensipar is the first-ever drug of its kind, it was natural that Amgen filed a patent-like approval from the U.S. FDA.  In Europe, Sensipar is also sold under the brand name Mimpara.

  • Sensipar has earned Amgen more than $1.5 billion in revenues, representing more than 12% growth in just one year. To date, Sensipar faces strong competition against other hyperparathyroidism drugs like Zemplar (AbbVie), generic Zemplar (TEVA Pharmaceutical), and Hectorol (Sanofi).
  • In order to pose stronger rivalry against its peers and advance its commercial strategy, Amgen is again set to launch another drug for the treatment of secondary hyperparathyroidism: Parsabiv. The drug was first launched in Europe but is also scheduled to be available in the U.S. in the near future.


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