LAVAL, QC -- April 3, 2000 -- Aventis Pharma Inc., the Canadian pharmaceutical company of Aventis S.A., today announced the launch of Arava(TM), a novel drug for adults with active rheumatoid arthritis. Arava (leflunomide) acts by treating the underlying cause of the disease as opposed to just treating symptoms which include joint inflammation, swelling, stiffness and pain.
"This is the first
specifically-designed DMARD (disease-modifying antirheumatic drug) to come to
the market in 10 years and having this new treatment option available is good
news for those who are afflicted with this autoimmune disease,'' said Jean
Bourgouin, M.D., Vice-President of Scientific Affairs at Aventis Pharma.
"We anticipate that patients taking Arava will have a better quality of
life, given the drug's ability to slow down the progression of the
characterized by an immune system attack on joint tissues leading to their
progressive destruction, affects close to 300,000 people in Canada. The disease
often attacks adults in their most productive middle years, causing them to lose
functional ability. As the disease progresses, the joints may be so deformed as
to require reconstructive surgery.
"We're still not
where we would like to be when it comes to effective treatments for rheumatoid
arthritis," said Dr. Boulos Haraoui, director of clinical research at
Montreal's Notre-Dame Hospital's department of rheumatology. "That's why we
feel this product represents such a significant add-on to treatments previously
available. The best attribute of this drug is that when it works for a patient,
it really does its job well. We see very significant improvements in about eight
weeks, which is a relatively short period of time."
Dr. Edward Keystone,
director of the Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Studies in Arthritis at
Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, is also a strong believer in the product's
benefits to his patients. "I must say that I am impressed with the results
I've seen," he said. "There's no doubt that this product fills an
unmet need for those patients who are partial or non-responders to the current
According to Dr.
Keystone, the majority of patients being treated for rheumatoid arthritis will
require an additional agent or replacement therapy as their disease progresses.
"This new agent is making a significant difference in people's lives,"
he said. "My patients are telling me that not only is their pain being
controlled but that they are actually feeling much better overall. So, for
patients and rheumatologists, this is a welcome addition."
In clinical studies
involving more than 1,800 patients worldwide, Arava was shown to be effective as
a therapy for long-term use. "The data, as evidenced by X-ray, clearly
showed that Arava slows disease progression," said Dr. Bourgouin. Arava was
generally well tolerated in these studies with the most common transient side
effects being diarrhea, elevated liver enzymes, hair loss and rash. While the
cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, bacterial or viral infections,
genetic markers and/or stress are considered possible risk factors.
generally begins with inflammation (redness, warmth and swelling) in the joints,
most commonly the wrist and finger joints, but can also affect the elbows,
shoulders, neck, jaw, knees, ankles and feet. In some patients, rheumatoid
arthritis can quickly attack internal organs, causing serious damage including
inflammation of blood vessels, the lungs and the lining surrounding the heart.
The disease is approximately three times more common in women than in men.
Aventis Pharma Inc. is
the Canadian pharmaceutical business of Aventis S.A., one of the world's leading
life sciences companies focusing on two core areas - pharmaceuticals and
agriculture. Aventis was created in December 1999 through the merger of Hoechst
AG and Rhône-Poulenc S.A. Aventis Pharma is dedicated to treating and
preventing human disease through the discovery, development, manufacture and
sale of innovative pharmaceutical products aimed at satisfying unmet medical
needs. The corporate headquarters of Aventis Pharma is in Frankfurt, Germany.
The Canadian operations employ 690 people and are headquartered in Laval, Québec.
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