New Era in Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

New drugs available or in late-stage clinical trials

WEDNESDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- Two new rheumatoid arthritis drugs have been approved and a third is in phase III trials, heralding a new era in the treatment of the debilitating disease, according to a report published online June 13 in The Lancet.

Josef S. Smolen, M.D., of the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, and colleagues examined clinical trial data on rituximab and abatacept, which have been approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and tocilizumab, which is in phase III trials.

Rituximab acts by targeting the CD20 antigen and reducing inflammatory cell count, and in trials reduced symptoms by more than 50 percent in over one-third of patients. Abatacept interferes with lymphocyte activation response and halved the symptoms in approximately 40 percent of patients. Similar results were achieved in trials of the anti-interleukin 6 receptor tocilizumab.

The investigators also examined the adverse effects of the new drugs, which include infusion reactions with rituximab; headache, dizziness and serious infection with abatacept; and headache, skin eruptions, stomatitis and fever with tocilizumab.

"The many patients who obtain insufficient responses to established and novel treatments indicates the need to search for further therapies and treatment principles to increase response rates and to achieve high frequencies of remission or even cure in rheumatoid arthritis. The prospects are here," they conclude.

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