Pharmaceutical giant AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV) announced that Health Canada officially approved its rheumatoid arthritis (RA) drug Rinvoq. Canadians with moderate to severe cases of the condition who don't respond well to the more commonly prescribed treatment, methotrexate, can now receive Rinvoq instead.

Rinvoq is a daily oral Janus kinase inhibitor, a compound that works by slowing down a patient's overactive immune system and reducing inflammation in the joints.. While methotrexate is the go-to treatment for rheumatoid arthritis patients, as many as 70% fail to see reduced symptoms or remission from methotrexate alone.

Picture of a person with radiating pain from several joints on the body.

Image source: Getty Images.

This decision was supported by data from the global phase 3 select rheumatoid arthritis clinical program, which tested around 4,400 patients across five different studies. At present, there are approximately 300,000 Canadians who have been diagnosed with the disease.

A blockbuster in the making?

As patent protection for AbbVie's top drug, Humira, is expiring in 2023, the pharmaceutical giant hopes that drugs like Rinvoq will become successful enough to replace any lost revenue from Humira's loss of exclusivity. Earlier in December, Rinvoq also received approval from the EU's top health regulator, the European Commission, for use in RA patients with moderate to severe symptoms as well.

Like most rheumatoid arthritis drugs on the market, Rinvoq is fairly expensive, coming in at $59,000 per year, whereas Humira's price tag comes in at $62,088. Although revenue from the drug is almost non-existent right now, the consensus on Wall Street is that Rinvoq's 2020 sales will come in around $340 million.