Novartis said Wednesday late-stage trials showed its gout treatment Ilaris, which has already been filed for approval in the U.S. and elsewhere, was effective in reducing patients' pain and limiting the risk of new attacks, potentially paving the way for the drug to become a blockbuster.

Novartis said two studies involving more than 450 patients showed the compound, also known as ACZ885, provided superior pain relief and reduced the risk of new attacks in gouty arthritis patients by up to 68 percent compared to an injectable steroid.

"We are very excited about these results, which indicate that ACZ885 may become a significant new alternative for gouty arthritis patients," said David Epstein, head of Novartis' pharmaceuticals division.

The Basel, Switzerland-based company said the monoclonal antibody, which works by blocking an inflammatory protein called interleukin-1 beta, had been filed for regulatory approval in gouty arthritis patients with limited treatment options in the European Union in 2010 and in the US, Canada and Switzerland in the first quarter of 2011.

While the sales potential in this patient group indication may be limited, analysts said, a further expansion of the drug's use for other patient groups could turn the medicine into a blockbuster with more than $1 billion in sales, as Novartis would be able to tap into the $35 billion arthritis market.

Gouty arthritis, commonly referred to as gout, was the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in adults, Novartis said. It added that in the UK an estimated 1.4 percent of the population suffers from gouty arthritis, while in the U.S. 3.9 percent of the population has the condition.

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