- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A potential rheumatoid arthritis treatment from Eli Lilly and Incyte fared better than another drug in late-stage testing, and the drugmakers are moving closer to seeking regulatory approval to sell it.

Lilly said Tuesday that early results from a study that enrolled around 600 patients showed that its oral medication, baricitinib, proved superior to the established treatment methotrexate. The drugmakers are conducting several late-stage studies of baricitinib, which aims to treat patients with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis.

The companies expect early results from a fourth late-stage study later this year, and a Lilly spokeswoman said they plan to submit the drug to the Food and Drug Administration before the end of 2015.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the joints and destroys soft tissue, cartilage and bone. It represents a major area of research for drug companies because it is chronic, meaning patients will likely take the drugs regularly for a long time.

Lilly bought the potential drug from Incyte in 2009 and is leading its development and the push to get it approved. Lilly will give Wilmington, Delaware-based Incyte milestone payments and royalties tied to annual sales if the drug is approved.

Shares of Eli Lilly and Co. rose $1.37, or 1.7 percent, to $81.11 in morning trading Tuesday while Incyte Corp. shares gained $5.36, or 5.6 percent, to $100.52.

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