News Feature | February 19, 2014

AstraZeneca Targets Gout Resurgence Due To Obesity

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By Liisa Vexler

AstraZeneca Plc is poised to receive approval for a new, more effective treatment for gout. The disease has seen a recent gradual resurgence as a result of rising obesity rates and declining quality of diet. In a recent study, the Annals of Rheumatic Disease reported that in the United Sates, 8.3 million people or 4% of the population, had gout in 2011, while in the United Kingdom, the number of cases rose 64% between 1997 and 2012.

Current drug therapies, some of which have been used for more than 50 years, are not effective in all patients. These medications produce side effects and skin conditions that are not tolerated by many patients, so physicians will often prescribe corticosteroids or over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.

AstraZeneca’s new product called lesinurad is currently seeking regulatory approval, while last year, Pfizer Inc. purchased the rights to another drug that is in the early phase of clinical trials. Most treatments for gout currently in use are generic or non-prescription; this makes the market relatively small, but JPMorgan Chase & Co forecasted last month that lesinurad may achieve sales of $1 billion a year.

Gout is a condition caused by excess uric acid, a waste product, in the bloodstream. It is a form of arthritis that, while not life-threatening, can be painful and debilitating. The uric acid crystallizes and gets deposited in the joints (usually the big toes), making them extremely painful. Gout is caused by lifestyle factors including obesity, blood pressure, cholesterol, alcohol, and some medications, though genes also play a role. According to research company Decision Resources Group, approximately 17.7 million people worldwide will have gout by 2021.

AstraZeneca’s new product assists with excretion of the excess uric acid by blocking a protein that allows the body to reabsorb the acid. While the new treatments may be prescribed alone, experts say they will be most effective when combined with existing ones.