After seeing similar results in other children, [David Trentham] decided to study the drug in those ages 6 to 14 and asked drug maker Wyeth for a donation of $15,000 worth of the antibiotic. Wyeth, which made $14 billion last year in total sales of drugs and other products, had acquired a small company that supported Trentham's previous studies of minocycline in animals and in adults. But this time, the answer was an unequivocal no.
Trentham's translation of the letter: If minocyline worked, it might compete with a blockbuster drug called Enbrel that Wyeth now markets for both adult and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Enbrel costs $1,300 per month for adults and has life-threatening side effects, while Wyeth's brand of minocycline, called Minocin, costs only $280 for an adult monthly dose, Trentham said. And unlike Enbrel, minocycline is no longer under patent, so many companies could benefit from the drug's success.
Despite the rejection by Wyeth, Trentham is forging ahead. He secured a $20,000 grant from a small private foundation, the Road Back Foundation, to fund lab fees for the six-month study and will buy Minocin from Wyeth, and then charge study participants or their insurers for the drug. But he said he worries that that will make it much harder to recruit participants and will delay the study, now scheduled to begin this summer. He plans to recruit patients across the country who are not currently taking Enbrel or another treatment, methotrexate.