WASHINGTON (AP) - The government has approved sale of a new drug for rheumatoid arthritis that works like two older competitors - but may prove easier to take.
Abbott Laboratories' Humira works by blocking an immune system protein called tumor necrosis factor, or TNF, that is responsible for much of the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis.
It requires patients to give themselves one shot every two weeks.
Two other TNF blockers, Enbrel and Remicade, have long been sold. Enbrel requires two shots a week, and is so difficult to manufacture that it's often in short supply. Remicade requires an infusion in a doctor's office.
All three drugs have similar side effects, including serious, sometimes fatal, infections thought linked to the suppression of the immune protein.
About 2 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system goes awry and destroys patients' joints.
Abbott plans to begin the first shipments of Humira next week, with nationwide sales by the end of January. The company said Humira's wholesale price will be identical to Enbrel's, at a little over $1,100 a month.