“The Israel inspired revolution in arthritis treatment”

Enbrol is to inflammation as penicillin is to infection. Few realize the blockbuster drug was developed in Israel.

Israel has provided the global drug development pipeline with many well-known internationally successful medications including Copaxone, Rebif, Exelon, Doxil, Azilect and Gonal. In fact there is yet another well-known drug that is not very often associated with Israel – Enbrel, for the treatment of inflammatory diseases and probably the most successful Israeli drug that you do not recognize as Israeli.

The researchers, Prof. Dan Aderka and Prof. David Wallach, from Sheba Hospital, Tel Hashomer and the Weizmann Institute of Science, respectively, …

were the first to guess that a molecule such as Enbrel had to exist. They also were the first to patent the product, a patent that protected their developed product and which recently expired.An additional patent is based on Enbrol, a molecule that when added to the drug makes it easier for the body to absorb, and this patent right was recently approved until 2026. “When rumors began to circulate about the extension of the patent, Amgen’s stock price rose from $70 to $110. The stock price hadn’t been so high for ten years,” said Aderka to clarify how significant the drug is to Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN), currently traded around $90 with a market cap of $70 billion, making it the world’s largest independent biotech company.

Enbrel saw sales of $3.9 billion in 2012 making it the seventh best-selling drug in the US. This achievement was due to the fact that it is the most innovative treatment for inflammatory diseases that has come onto the market in recent years.

Aderka said, “Who knows, maybe this product deserves a Nobel Prize, since it completely changes the progress of the disease.” When the drug is administered at an early stage of arthritis, it inhibits the inflammation and prevents permanent damage to the joints, thus saving patients from short-term pain and slows down the process of permanent damage that can lead to disability – this certainly is a change. In addition to arthritis, it is also registered for use against psoriasis and inflammation of the spine.

There is no doubt that Israelis should be proud of the drug, but the story of Enbrel has other elements. It provides an insight into the obstacles in the path of inventors developing drugs and the lucrative nature of the business as well as the politics and organizational culture that can either help a drug or destroy it. …


Globes – Foto ter illustratie