Alternative to Cox II inhibitors

The german biotech-company Orthogen AG, offers an alternative presenting the results of a new osteoarthritis trial with Orthokine.

After the failure of cox II inhibitors such as Vioxx, osteoarthritis patients and their doctors are faced with a lack of alternative therapies. The Orthokine-therapy means knee-injections of IL-1Ra protein, obtained from the patient's blood. "The Orthokine-therapy is safe and effective. Orthokine produced clinical results that were far superior to those achieved using standard hyaluronic acid injection therapy and placebo," said Orthogen CEO Prof. MD. Peter Wehling on Wednesday in Dusseldorf/North-Rhine-Westfalia. The trial, including 400 Patients, was realized according to international standards from Heinrich-Heine-University (Dusseldorf). Further Orthogen is developing in cooperation with Harvard University a stem cell technology for regeneration of human cartilage tissue.

Ten to 20 percent of the population of western countries suffers from joint and spinal disorders. The therapies for these disorders are most expensive after circulatory and digestive diseases with a high market potential. According to official government statistics, orthopedic disorders cost EUR25 billion annually in Germany alone and approximately one-third of this amount is accounted by osteoarthritis. For many years now, musculoskeletal disorders have been the number one cause of work disability and the consequent economic loss in Germany.

"The problem with conventional OA-therapies such as painkillers, steroids and hyaluronic acid is that they act on the symptoms but leave the underlying causes of the disease untouched," said Wehling, specialized in the role of cytokines in pain inhibition and tissue regeneration. In contrast Orthokine acts on the causal mechanism of arthritis and prevents further cartilage degeneration in the joints. "Orthokine could potentially become the new standard arthritis therapy," Wehling said. Pharmacology experts also regard biologicals as the medications of the future.

A privately financed company that was founded in 1993 with financial support from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Orthogen believes that it may well earn revenues in the two-digit millions in the coming years, considering the fact that Merck was earning $2.5 billion annually worldwide from its Vioxx painkiller. Because of severe side effects the drug was taken off the worldwide market in 2004. Biologicals may in future completely supplant pharmaceutical blockbusters such as Vioxx. According to Datamonitor, the worldwide market for arthritis preparations is expected to increase from its current level of $21 billion to $26 billion in 2010.

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