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1.  Systematic review and network meta-analysis of combination and monotherapy treatments in disease-modifying antirheumatic drug-experienced patients with rheumatoid arthritis: analysis of American College of Rheumatology criteria scores 20, 50, and 70 
Biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs) extend the treatment choices for rheumatoid arthritis patients with suboptimal response or intolerance to conventional DMARDs. The objective of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to compare the relative efficacy of EU-licensed bDMARD combination therapy or monotherapy for patients intolerant of or contraindicated to continued methotrexate.
Comprehensive, structured literature searches were conducted in Medline, Embase, and the Cochrane Library, as well as hand-searching of conference proceedings and reference lists. Phase II or III randomized controlled trials reporting American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria scores of 20, 50, and 70 between 12 and 30 weeks’ follow-up and enrolling adult patients meeting ACR classification criteria for rheumatoid arthritis previously treated with and with an inadequate response to conventional DMARDs were eligible. To estimate the relative efficacy of treatments whilst preserving the randomized comparisons within each trial, a Bayesian network meta-analysis was conducted in WinBUGS using fixed and random-effects, logit-link models fitted to the binomial ACR 20/50/70 trial data.
The systematic review identified 10,625 citations, and after a review of 2450 full-text papers, there were 29 and 14 eligible studies for the combination and monotherapy meta-analyses, respectively. In the combination analysis, all licensed bDMARD combinations had significantly higher odds of ACR 20/50/70 compared to DMARDs alone, except for the rituximab comparison, which did not reach significance for the ACR 70 outcome (based on the 95% credible interval). The etanercept combination was significantly better than the tumor necrosis factor-α inhibitors adalimumab and infliximab in improving ACR 20/50/70 outcomes, with no significant differences between the etanercept combination and certolizumab pegol or tocilizumab. Licensed-dose etanercept, adalimumab, and tocilizumab monotherapy were significantly better than placebo in improving ACR 20/50/70 outcomes. Sensitivity analysis indicated that including studies outside the target population could affect the results.
Licensed bDMARDs are efficacious in patients with an inadequate response to conventional therapy, but tumor necrosis factor-α inhibitor combination therapies are not equally effective.
PMCID: PMC3529627  PMID: 23269860
bDMARD; rheumatoid arthritis; etanercept; systematic review; network metaanalysis; comparative effectiveness
2.  EULAR recommendations for the management of rheumatoid arthritis with synthetic and biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs: 2013 update 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2013;73(3):492-509.
In this article, the 2010 European League against Rheumatism (EULAR) recommendations for the management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with synthetic and biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (sDMARDs and bDMARDs, respectively) have been updated. The 2013 update has been developed by an international task force, which based its decisions mostly on evidence from three systematic literature reviews (one each on sDMARDs, including glucocorticoids, bDMARDs and safety aspects of DMARD therapy); treatment strategies were also covered by the searches. The evidence presented was discussed and summarised by the experts in the course of a consensus finding and voting process. Levels of evidence and grades of recommendations were derived and levels of agreement (strengths of recommendations) were determined. Fourteen recommendations were developed (instead of 15 in 2010). Some of the 2010 recommendations were deleted, and others were amended or split. The recommendations cover general aspects, such as attainment of remission or low disease activity using a treat-to-target approach, and the need for shared decision-making between rheumatologists and patients. The more specific items relate to starting DMARD therapy using a conventional sDMARD (csDMARD) strategy in combination with glucocorticoids, followed by the addition of a bDMARD or another csDMARD strategy (after stratification by presence or absence of adverse risk factors) if the treatment target is not reached within 6 months (or improvement not seen at 3 months). Tumour necrosis factor inhibitors (adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, etanercept, golimumab, infliximab, biosimilars), abatacept, tocilizumab and, under certain circumstances, rituximab are essentially considered to have similar efficacy and safety. If the first bDMARD strategy fails, any other bDMARD may be used. The recommendations also address tofacitinib as a targeted sDMARD (tsDMARD), which is recommended, where licensed, after use of at least one bDMARD. Biosimilars are also addressed. These recommendations are intended to inform rheumatologists, patients, national rheumatology societies and other stakeholders about EULAR's most recent consensus on the management of RA with sDMARDs, glucocorticoids and bDMARDs. They are based on evidence and expert opinion and intended to improve outcome in patients with RA.
PMCID: PMC3933074  PMID: 24161836
Rheumatoid Arthritis; DMARDs (synthetic); DMARDs (biologic); Treatment; Early Rheumatoid Arthritis
3.  Comparative efficacy of biologics as monotherapy and in combination with methotrexate on patient reported outcomes (PROs) in rheumatoid arthritis patients with an inadequate response to conventional DMARDs – a systematic review and network meta-analysis 
To compare biologics as monotherapy or in combination with methotrexate (MTX) in terms of patient reported outcomes (PROs) in RA patients with an inadequate response to conventional DMARDs (DMARD-IR).
With a systematic literature review 17 RCTs were identified that evaluated adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, etanercept, golimumab, infliximab, abatacept, anakinra or tocilizumab. Treatment effects in terms of pain (0-100 mm), patient’s global assessment of disease activity (PGA; 0-100 mm), Health Assessment-Questionnaire (HAQ) disability index (DI; 0–3), and the physical component summary (PCS) of the SF36 Health Survey (0–100) at 24 weeks were combined by means of Bayesian network meta-analyses.
With tocilizumab monotherapy, greater improvements in pain (difference = -11.1; (95% Credible Interval -21.3, -0.1)) and PGA (-10.3 (-20.4, 0.8)) were observed than with aTNF monotherapy. Tocilizumab was at least as efficacious as aTNF in HAQ-DI improvements (-0.16; (-0.37, 0.05)). aTNF + MTX (-17.9 (-23.1, -13.0) & -19.1 (-24.2, -14.4)), abatacept + MTX (-23.0 (-47.3, 1. 5) & -13.6 (-28.4, 2.0)) and tocilizumab + MTX (-16.0 (-26.3, -6.3) & -15.1 (-25.1, -5.7)) showed comparable reductions in pain and PGA relative to MTX. Efficacy of anakinra + MTX was much smaller as compared to other biologics. The greatest improvements in HAQ-DI relative to MTX were observed with aTNF + MTX (-0.30 (-0.37, -0.22)) and tocilizumab + MTX (-0.27 (-0.42, -0.12)), followed by abatacept + MTX (-0.21 (-0.37, -0.05)) and anakinra + MTX (-0.11 (-0.26, 0.05)). The improvements in SF36-PCS with abatacept + MTX, aTNF + MTX and tocilizumab + MTX were comparable. There is a >90% probability that aTNF + MTX results in a greater improvement in pain (-12.4), PGA (-16.1) and HAQ-DI (-0.21) than aTNF as monotherapy. Efficacy of tocilizumab + MTX showed comparable improvements in PROs as tocilizumab monotherapy.
Based on a network meta-analysis involving indirect comparison of trial findings, the following observations were made for DMARD-IR patients. In monotherapy, tocilizumab was associated with a greater improvement in pain and self-reported disease activity than aTNF, and was at least as efficacious regarding functional ability. The improvements in PROs with aTNF, abatacept and tocilizumab in combination with MTX were comparable. Improvements in PROs with tocilizumab as monotherapy were similar to that of tocilizumab + MTX, whereas aTNF as monotherapy was likely to be less efficacious than aTNF + MTX.
PMCID: PMC4101713  PMID: 24988902
Rheumatoid arthritis; Biologics; Patient reported outcomes; Network meta-analysis; Indirect comparison
4.  Rheumatoid arthritis 
BMJ Clinical Evidence  2007;2007:1124.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually starts as a symmetrical polyarthritis, and its course is marked by flares and remissions. The aims of treatment are to relieve pain and swelling, and to improve function. In addition, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may reduce disease progression.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of drug treatments in people with rheumatoid arthritis who have not previously received any disease-modifying antirheumatic drug treatment? How do different drug treatments compare in people with rheumatoid arthritis who have either not responded to or are intolerant of first-line disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library and other important databases up to June 2005 (BMJ Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 62 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: adalimumab, anakinra, antimalarial drugs, azathioprine, ciclosporin, corticosteroids, cyclophosphamide, etanercept, infliximab plus methotrexate, leflunomide, methotrexate (alone; or plus sulfasalazine plus hydroxychloroquine), oral gold, parenteral gold, penicillamine, sulfasalazine.
Key Points
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that mainly affects the peripheral joints and surrounding tissue. It usually starts as a symmetrical polyarthritis, and its course is marked by flares and remissions.The aims of treatment are to relieve pain and swelling, and to improve function. In addition, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may reduce disease progression.
The DMARD methotrexate is widely used as first-line treatment in people with rheumatoid arthritis because of consensus about its effectiveness in practice. Sulfasalazine and combined treatment with methotrexate and sulfasalazine are as effective as methotrexate in improving pain, joint swelling, and function in people with early rheumatoid arthritis who have not previously received DMARDs. Antimalarials may improve symptoms and function in DMARD-naïve people, and are reasonably well tolerated, but radiological evidence of erosion is more marked with antimalarials than with sulfasalazine.
There is a variety of DMARDs available for second-line treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and we found no clear evidence that one is superior. Methotrexate, sulfasalazine, penicillamine , and leflunomide cause similar improvements in symptoms and function when given to people as second-line DMARD treatment, although methotrexate causes fewer adverse effects.The combination of methotrexate plus sulfasalazine plus hydroxychloroquine is more effective in reducing measures of disease activity in people receiving second-line treatment than any of the drugs used alone. Adding the cytokine inhibitors infliximab or etanercept to methotrexate is more effective than using methotrexate alone.Although antimalarials and oral gold seem to improve clinical disease activity when given as second-line treatment, they are not as effective as methotrexate or sulfasalazine. Although parenteral gold is more effective than oral gold, it leads to higher levels of toxicity than most of the other commonly used DMARDs. Ciclosporin offers short-term control of rheumatoid arthritis when used as second-line treatment, but is associated with nephrotoxicity.We don′t know whether cyclophosphamide is as effective as other DMARDs for second-line treatment.Cytokine inhibitors may offer an alternative to traditional DMARDs for second line treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, but more research is needed. Etanercept may be as effective as methotrexate in improving symptoms, function, and radiological evidence of progression, but more evidence for its effect is needed Azathioprine is less effective and is less well tolerated than methotrexate.We don't know whether anakinra or adalimumab are as effective as other DMARDs for second-line treatment.Although widely used for the initial short-term relief of clinical disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis, we don't know how corticosteroids compare with other drugs for first or second-line treatment.
PMCID: PMC2943775  PMID: 19454108
5.  Effect of Combination Therapy on Joint Destruction in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Network Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106408.
Despite significant cost differences, the comparative effect of combination treatments of disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) with and without biologic agents has rarely been examined. Thus we performed a network meta-analysis on the effect of combination therapies on progression of radiographic joint erosions in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods and Findings
The following combination drug therapies compared versus single DMARD were investigated: Double DMARD: 2 DMARDs (methotrexate, sulfasalazine, leflunomide, injectable gold, cyclosporine, chloroquine, azathioprin, penicillamin) or 1 DMARD plus low dose glucocorticoid (LDGC); triple DMARD: 3 DMARDs or 2 DMARDs plus LDGC; biologic combination: 1 DMARD plus biologic agent (tumor necrosis factor α inhibitor (TNFi) or abatacept or tocilizumab or CD20 inhibitor (CD20i)). Randomized controlled trials were identified in a search of electronic archives of biomedical literature and included in a star-shaped network meta-analysis and reported according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement protocol. Effects are reported as standardized mean differences (SMD). The effects of data from 39 trials published in the period 1989–2012 were as follows: Double DMARD: −0.32 SMD (CI: −0.42, −0.22); triple DMARD: −0.46 SMD (CI: −0.60, −0.31); 1 DMARD plus TNFi: −0.30 SMD (CI: −0.36, −0.25); 1 DMARD plus abatacept: −0.20 SMD (CI: −0.33, −0.07); 1 DMARD plus tocilizumab: −0.34 SMD (CI: −0.48, −0.20); 1 DMARD plus CD20i: −0.32 SMD (CI: −0.40, −0.24). The indirect comparisons showed similar effects between combination treatments apart from triple DMARD being significantly better than abatacept plus methotrexate (−0.26 SMD (CI: −0.45, −0.07)) and TNFi plus methotrexate (−0.16 SMD (CI: −0.31, −0.01)).
Combination treatment of a biologic agent with 1 DMARD is not superior to 2–3 DMARDs including or excluding LDGC in preventing structural joint damage. Future randomized studies of biologic agents should be compared versus a combination of DMARDs.
PMCID: PMC4171366  PMID: 25244021
6.  Abatacept with methotrexate versus other biologic agents in treatment of patients with active rheumatoid arthritis despite methotrexate: a network meta-analysis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(6):R204.
The goal of this study was to compare the efficacy in terms of Health Assessment Questionnaire change from baseline (HAQ CFB), 50% improvement in American College of Rheumatology criterion (ACR-50) and Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28) defined remission (< 2.6) between abatacept and other biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who have inadequate response to methotrexate (MTX-IR).
A systematic literature review identified controlled trials investigating the efficacy of abatacept (three studies), etanercept (two studies), infliximab (two), adalimumab (two), certolizumab pegol (two) ritixumab (three), and tocilizumab (two) in MTX-IR patients with RA. The clinical trials included in this analysis were similar with respect to trial design, baseline patient characteristics and background therapy (MTX). The key clinical endpoints of interest were HAQ CFB, ACR-50 and DAS28 < 2.6 measured at 24 and 52 weeks. The results were analysed using network meta-analysis methods that enabled calculation of an estimate for expected relative effect of comparative treatments. Analysis results were expressed as the difference in HAQ CFB score and odds ratio (OR) of achieving an ACR-50 and DAS28 response and associated 95% credible intervals (CrI).
The analysis of HAQ CFB at 24 weeks and 52 weeks showed that abatacept in combination with MTX is expected to be more efficacious than MTX monotherapy and is expected to show a comparable efficacy relative to other biologic DMARDs in combination with MTX. Further, abatacept showed comparable ACR-50 and DAS28 < 2.6 response rates with other biologic DMARDs at 24 and 52 weeks, except for ACR-50 compared to certolizumab pegol at 52 weeks and for DAS28 < 2.6 compared to tocilizumab at 24 weeks. Sensitivity analyses confirmed the robustness of the findings.
Abatacept in combination with MTX is expected to result in a comparable change from baseline in HAQ score and comparable ACR-50 and DAS28 < 2.6 response rates in MTX-IR patients compared to other approved biologic agents.
PMCID: PMC3334657  PMID: 22151924
abatacept; rheumatoid arthritis; biologic DMARDs; network meta-analysis; health assessment questionnaire
7.  Efficacy and safety of infliximab-biosimilar compared to other biological drugs in rheumatoid arthritis: a mixed treatment comparison 
The aim of this meta-analysis was to compare the efficacy and safety of infliximab-biosimilar and other available biologicals for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), namely abatacept, adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, etanercept, golimumab, infliximab, rituximab and tocilizumab.
A systematic literature review of MEDLINE database until August 2013 was carried out to identify relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Bayesian mixed treatment comparison method was applied for the pairwise comparison of treatments. Improvement rates by the American College of Rheumatology criteria (ACR20 and ACR50) at week 24 were used as efficacy endpoints, and the occurrence of serious adverse events was considered to assess the safety of the biologicals.
Thirty-six RCTs were included in the meta-analysis. All the biological agents proved to be superior to placebo. For ACR20 response, certolizumab pegol showed the highest odds ratio (OR) compared to placebo, OR 7.69 [95 % CI 3.69–14.26], followed by abatacept OR 3.7 [95 % CI 2.17–6.06], tocilizumab OR 3.69 [95 % CI 1.87–6.62] and infliximab-biosimilar OR 3.47 [95 % CI 0.85–9.7]. For ACR50 response, certolizumab pegol showed the highest OR compared to placebo OR 8.46 [3.74–16.82], followed by tocilizumab OR 5.57 [95 % CI 2.77–10.09], and infliximab-biosimilar OR 4.06 [95 % CI 1.01–11.54]. Regarding the occurrence of serious adverse events, the results show no statistically significant difference between infliximab-biosimilar and placebo, OR 1.87 [95 % CI 0.74–3.84]. No significant difference regarding efficacy and safety was found between infliximab-biosimilar and the other biological treatments.
This is the first indirect meta-analysis in RA that compares the efficacy and safety of biosimilar-infliximab to the other biologicals indicated in RA. We found no significant difference between infliximab-biosimilar and other biological agents in terms of clinical efficacy and safety.
PMCID: PMC4046078  PMID: 24832836
Arthritis; Rheumatoid; Biosimilar pharmaceuticals; Meta-analysis; Mixed treatment comparison; I10; I19
8.  Approaches to the treatment of early rheumatoid arthritis with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs 
This paper reviews recent approaches to treatment of early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The literature on treatment the early RA published between 1995 and 2007 was accessed through the PubMed database from the National Library of Medicine. Keywords were ‘early rheumatoid arthritis’, ‘disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs’, ‘biologic agents’ and ‘combination therapy’. Only results of trials on human subjects that directly measured the effects of DMARDs or biological agents on clinical, laboratory parameters and radiological progression of early RA were selected. Combination therapy suppresses RA activity and radiological progression more effectively than monotherapy. If better control of RA is evident after 3–6 months of treatment with the combination of DMARDs, one must still decide whether to stop the first DMARD, stop the second, or continue with the combination. Combination therapy biological agents (infliximab, adalimumab) with methotrexate and etanercept therapy alone may induce remission in many patients with early RA. It is a method of choice in patients with an adverse prognosis. The main indications for combination therapy ‘standard’ DMARDs or combination 1 DMARDs with a biological agent are such variables as detection of a shared epitope, increase of concentration of anticyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies, rheumatoid factor, C-reactive protein, 28-joint disease activity score, Sharp score and presence of erosion in joints. The majority of rheumatologists believe that patients with RA should be treated with DMARDs earlier rather than later in the disease process. Further trials should establish the optimal approaches to early RA therapy.
PMCID: PMC2492934  PMID: 18537958
biological agents; combination therapy; disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs; early rheumatoid arthritis
9.  Biological drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis by the subcutaneous route: interpreting efficacy data to assess statistical equivalence 
No equivalence analysis has yet been conducted on the effectiveness of biologics in rheumatoid arthritis. Equivalence testing has a specific scientific interest, but can also be useful for deciding whether acquisition tenders are feasible for the pharmacological agents being compared.
Our search covered the literature up to August 2014. Our methodology was a combination of standard pairwise meta-analysis, Bayesian network meta-analysis and equivalence testing. The agents examined for their potential equivalence were etanercept, adalimumab, golimumab, certolizumab, and tocilizumab, each in combination with methotrexate (MTX). The reference treatment was MTX monotherapy. The endpoint was ACR50 achievement at 12 months. Odds ratio was the outcome measure. The equivalence margins were established by analyzing the statistical power data of the trials.
Our search identified seven randomized controlled trials (2846 patients). No study was retrieved for tocilizumab, and so only four biologics were evaluable. The equivalence range was set at odds ratio from 0.56 to 1.78. There were 10 head-to-head comparisons (4 direct, 6 indirect). Bayesian network meta-analysis estimated the odds ratio (with 90% credible intervals) for each of these comparisons. Between-trial heterogeneity was marked. According to our results, all credible intervals of the 10 comparisons were wide and none of them satisfied the equivalence criterion. A superiority finding was confirmed for the treatment with MTX plus adalimumab or certolizumab in comparison with MTX monotherapy, but not for the other two biologics.
Our results indicate that these four biologics improved the rates of ACR50 achievement, but there was an evident between-study heterogeneity. The head-to-head indirect comparisons between individual biologics showed no significant difference, but failed to demonstrate the proof of no difference (i.e. equivalence). This body of evidence presently precludes any option of undertaking competitive tenderings for the procurement of these agents.
PMCID: PMC4239151  PMID: 25435923
adalimumab; biologics; certolizumab; equivalence; etanercept; golimumab; meta-analysis; rheumatoid arthritis; tocilizumab
10.  Anti-TNF agents for rheumatoid arthritis 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory, autoimmune disease with a prevalence of approximately 1% and an annual incidence of 0.04%. Up to 50% of patients with RA are unable to work 10 years after diagnosis. The disease is associated with significant morbidity and mortality with associated medical costs to the UK of between £240 m and £600 m per year.
Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have little effect on the underlying course of RA, but they have some anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) have been shown to slow progression of RA and are currently recommended early in the course of treatment of RA which is when disease progression is most rapid.
Etanercept and infliximab belong to a new group of parentally administered antitumour necrosis factor (TNF) drugs.
Etanercept is licensed in the UK for the treatment of active rheumatoid arthritis in patients who have not responded to other DMARDs and in children with polyarticular-course juvenile arthritis who have not responded to or are intolerant of methotrexate. In adults it produces significant improvements in all measures of rheumatic disease activity compared to placebo. In patients whose disease remains active despite methotrexate treatment, further improvement in control is obtained with the addition of etanercept without an increase in toxicity. In one small trial, etanercept was found to be more effective than placebo in a selected group of children.
Infliximab is a monoclonal antibody which is currently licensed in the UK for Crohn's disease and, in combination with methotrexate for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in patients with active disease when the response to disease-modifying drugs, including methotrexate, has been inadequate. In clinical trials infliximab produced significant improvements in all measures of rheumatic disease activity compared with placebo. Infliximab in combination with methotrexate was shown to be superior to methotrexate or infliximab alone.
There are currently no predictors of a good response to anti-TNF drugs and a percentage of patients fail to respond to treatment (25% to 38% of etanercept patients; 21% to 42% of infliximab patients). Infliximab monotherapy induces the production of anti-infliximab antibodies, which may reduce its effectiveness. Adding methotrexate to infliximab therapy may prevent this response.
Anti-TNF drugs may affect host defences against infection and malignancy; whether these agents affect the development and course of malignancies and chronic infections is unknown and safety and efficacy in patients with immunosuppression or chronic infections has not been investigated. With infliximab, upper respiratory tract infections, general infections and those requiring antimicrobial treatment were more common in patients than placebo. Likewise, upper respiratory tract infections were more common in patients treated with etanercept than with placebo. Injection site reactions occur with both infliximab (16%–20%) and etanercept (37%).
There are approximately 600 000 patients with RA in the UK, and of these between 2% and 3.5% may have severe disease which has failed to respond to conventional treatment and who might be eligible for anti-TNF therapy. If between 50% and 70% of patients treated with anti-TNF drugs respond and continue on long-term treatment then the recurrent annual cost to the NHS could be between £48 m and £129 m.
PMCID: PMC2015031  PMID: 11298065
11.  Monoclonal antibodies in rheumatoid arthritis: comparative effectiveness of tocilizumab with tumor necrosis factor inhibitors 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by persistent joint inflammation, systemic inflammation, and immunological abnormalities. Because cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin (IL)-6 play a major role in the development of RA, their targeting could constitute a reasonable novel therapeutic strategy for treating RA. Indeed, worldwide clinical trials of TNF inhibiting biologic disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs) including infliximab, adalimumab, golimumab, certolizumab pegol, and etanercept as well as the humanized anti-human IL-6 receptor antibody, tocilizumab, have demonstrated outstanding clinical efficacy and tolerable safety profiles, resulting in worldwide approval for using these bDMARDs to treat moderate to severe active RA in patients with an inadequate response to synthetic disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (sDMARDs). Although bDMARDs have elicited to a paradigm shift in the treatment of RA due to the prominent efficacy that had not been previously achieved by sDMARDs, a substantial percentage of patients failed primary or secondary responses to bDMARD therapy. Because RA is a heterogeneous disease in which TNF-α and IL-6 play overlapping but distinct pathological roles, further studies are required to determine the best use of TNF inhibitors and tocilizumab in individual RA patients.
PMCID: PMC3984066  PMID: 24741293
interleukin-6; rheumatoid arthritis; adalimumab; biologic
12.  Description of the Efficacy and Safety of Three New Biologics in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis 
English articles on abatacept, golimumab, and tocilizumab in rheumatoid arthritis published between 2002 and 2009 were reviewed systematically. All randomized clinical trials, open-label extensions, meta-analyses, and reviews were examined. There were thirteen articles on abatacept, four on golimumab, and seven on tocilizumab. All three drugs were effective in methotrexate-naïve, methotrexate-incomplete responders, and tumor-necrosis-factor-failure rheumatoid arthritis patients. Of the three, only abatacept has been tested in a head-to-head trial with infliximab, in which it was found to be equivalent to infliximab. Golimumab resulted in a more modest improvement than the others in methotrexate-naïve patients, although no direct comparisons among the three drugs were possible or appropriate. Descriptive analysis of adverse events showed that patients receiving abatacept, golimumab, and tocilizumab were subject to more adverse events than controls overall, as expected. In the abatacept studies, a few cases of tuberculosis, more cardiovascular events and gastrointestinal bleedings and more basal cell carcinoma were seen. Golimumab was associated with more skin rashes and pneumonia, while tocilizumab was associated with increased lipids, more liver-function abnormalities, and neutropenia. These new medications are useful additions to the rheumatologic armamentarium and represent greater convenience (golimumab) or different mechanisms of action (abatacept and tocilizumab) than tumor-necrosis-factor inhibitors for treating rheumatoid arthritis. As expected, some adverse events occur when using these drugs and patients need to be watched carefully.
PMCID: PMC2829405  PMID: 20195397
Arthritis, rheumatoid; Biological products; Abatacept; Golimumab; Tocilizumab
13.  Changes in Use of Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis in the U.S. for the period 1983–2009 
Arthritis care & research  2013;65(9):1529-1533.
Use of non-biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (nbDMARD) and/or biologic DMARDs (bDMARD) is generally recommended to improve the prognosis of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The objective of this study was to describe the changing trends in DMARD use for RA over the past two decades.
We analyzed data from an open longitudinal cohort of RA patients recruited from rheumatologists’ practices in Northern California. We examined baseline demographic and clinical characteristics of the participants and their long DMARD use through annual comprehensive structured telephone interviews.
A total of 1,507 established RA patients were recruited through 5 enrollment periods between 1983 and 2009. Between 1983 and 2009, the use of any DMARD increased from 71% of all patients to 83% (p for trend <0.0001). In 2009, 43% received a bDMARD, 34% were on both nbDMARD and bDMARD, and 40% were treated with only nbDMARDs. The four most commonly used nbDMARDs in 2009 were methotrexate (49%), hydroxychloroquine (30%), leflunomide (13%) and sulfasalazine (7%). Etanercept (20%) was the most commonly used bDMARD in 2009, followed by infliximab (10%), adalimumab (9%) and abatacept (6%). Use of oral steroids was common (40%–50%) and remained similar throughout the study period.
There has been a significant increase in the use of DMARDs for RA over the past two decades. However, 15% of the individuals with a clinical diagnosis of RA were not receiving DMARDs in 2009. Future research should focus on sociodemographic and clinical factors associated with DMARD use for RA.
PMCID: PMC3717397  PMID: 23463543
14.  Do anti-TNF agents have equal efficacy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis? 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2004;6(Suppl 2):S3-S11.
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) antagonists have dramatically improved the outcomes of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Three agents currently available in the USA – infliximab, etanercept, and adalimumab – have been designed to modify the biologic effects of TNF. Infliximab and adalimumab are monoclonal antibodies, and etanercept is a soluble protein. The pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of each differs significantly from those of the others. All three agents are effective and safe, and can improve the quality of life in patients with RA. Although no direct comparisons are available, clinical trials provide evidence that can be used to evaluate the comparative efficacy of these agents. Infliximab, in combination with methotrexate, has been shown to relieve the signs and symptoms of RA, decrease total joint score progression, prevent joint erosions and joint-space narrowing, and improve physical function for up to 2 years. Etanercept has been shown to relieve the signs and symptoms of RA, decrease total joint score progression, and slow the rate of joint destruction, and might improve physical function. Etanercept is approved with and without methotrexate for patients who have demonstrated an incomplete response to therapy with methotrexate and other disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), as well as for first-line therapy in early RA, psoriatic arthritis, and juvenile RA. Adalimumab relieves the signs and symptoms of RA with and without methotrexate and other DMARDs, decreases total joint score progression, prevents joint erosions and joint-space narrowing in combination with methotrexate, and might improve physical function. When selecting a TNF antagonist, rheumatologists should weigh evidence and experience with specific agents before a decision is made for use in therapy.
PMCID: PMC2833457  PMID: 15228615
adalimumab; efficacy; etanercept; infliximab; rheumatoid arthritis
15.  The 'Switch’ study protocol: a randomised-controlled trial of switching to an alternative tumour-necrosis factor (TNF)-inhibitor drug or abatacept or rituximab in patients with rheumatoid arthritis who have failed an initial TNF-inhibitor drug 
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting approximately 1% of the UK adult population. Patients suffer considerable pain, stiffness and swelling and can sustain various degrees of joint destruction, deformity, and significant functional decline. In addition, the economic burden due to hospitalisation and loss of employment is considerable, with over 50% of patients being work-disabled within 10 years of diagnosis. Despite several biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (bDMARD) now available, there is a lack of data to guide biologic sequencing. In the UK, second-line biologic treatment is restricted to a single option, rituximab. The aim of the SWITCH trial is to establish whether an alternative-mechanism-TNF-inhibitor (TNFi) or abatacept are as effective as rituximab in patients with RA who have failed an initial TNFi drug.
SWITCH is a pragmatic, phase IV, multi-centre, parallel-group design, open-label, randomised, controlled trial (RCT) comparing alternative-mechanism-TNFi and abatacept with rituximab in patients with RA who have failed an initial TNFi drug. Participants are randomised in a 1:1:1 ratio to receive alternative mechanism TNFi, (monoclonal antibodies: infliximab, adalimumab, certolizumab or golimumab or the receptor fusion protein, etanercept), abatacept or rituximab during the interventional phase (from randomisation up to week 48). Participants are subsequently followed up to a maximum of 96 weeks, which constitutes the observational phase. The primary objective is to establish whether an alternative-mechanism-TNFi or abatacept are non-inferior to rituximab in terms of disease response at 24 weeks post randomisation. The secondary objectives include the comparison of alternative-mechanism-TNFi and abatacept to rituximab in terms of disease response, quality of life, toxicity, safety and structural and bone density outcomes over a 12-month period (48 weeks) and to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of switching patients to alternative active therapies compared to current practice.
SWITCH is a well-designed trial in this therapeutic area that aims to develop a rational treatment algorithm to potentially inform personalised treatment regimens (as opposed to switching all patients to only one available (and possibly unsuccessful) therapy), which may lead to long-term improved patient outcomes and gains in population health.
Trial registration
UKCRN Portfolio ID: 12343; ISRCTN89222125; NCT01295151
PMCID: PMC4391115  PMID: 25539805
Rheumatoid arthritis; TNF-inhibitor; Rituximab; Abatacept; Non-responder; Biologics; Randomised clinical trial; Cost-effectiveness
16.  Systematic review of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs for juvenile idiopathic arthritis 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:29.
Treatment of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may improve outcomes compared to conventional therapy (e.g., non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, intra-articular corticosteroids). The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate the comparative effectiveness and safety of DMARDs versus conventional therapy and versus other DMARDs.
A systematic evidence review of 156 reports identified in MEDLINE®, EMBASE®, and by hand searches. There is some evidence that methotrexate is superior to conventional therapy. Among children who have responded to a biologic DMARD, randomized discontinuation trials suggest that continued treatment decreases the risk of having a flare. However, these studies evaluated DMARDs with different mechanisms of action (abatacept, adalimumab, anakinra, etanercept, intravenous immunoglobulin, tocilizumab) and used varying comparators and follow-up periods. Rates of serious adverse events are similar between DMARDs and placebo in published trials. This review identified 11 incident cases of cancer among several thousand children treated with one or more DMARD.
Few data are available to evaluate the comparative effectiveness of either specific DMARDs or general classes of DMARDs. However, based on the overall number, quality, and consistency of studies, there is moderate strength of evidence to support that DMARDs improve JIA-associated symptoms. Limited data suggest that short-term risk of cancer is low.
PMCID: PMC3340294  PMID: 22420649
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis; Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs; Comparative effectiveness research; Systematic review
17.  Advances in rheumatology: new targeted therapeutics 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(Suppl 1):S5.
Treatment of inflammatory arthritides - including rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis - has seen much progress in recent years, partially due to increased understanding of the pathogenesis of these diseases at the cellular and molecular levels. These conditions share some common mechanisms. Biologic therapies have provided a clear advance in the treatment of rheumatological conditions. Currently available TNF-targeting biologic agents that are licensed for at east one of the above-named diseases are etanercept, infliximab, adalimumab, golimumab, and certolizumab. Biologic agents with a different mechanism of action have also been approved in rheumatoid arthritis (rituximab, abatacept, and tocilizumab). Although these biologic agents are highly effective, there is a need for improved management strategies. There is also a need for education of family physicians and other healthcare professionals in the identification of early symptoms of inflammatory arthritides and the importance of early referral to rheumatologists for diagnosis and treatment. Also, researchers are developing molecules - for example, the Janus kinase inhibitor CP-690550 (tofacitinib) and the spleen tyrosine kinase inhibitor R788 (fostamatinib) - to target other aspects of the inflammatory cascade. Initial trial results with new agents are promising, and, in time, head-to-head trials will establish the best treatment options for patients. The key challenge is identifying how best to integrate these new, advanced therapies into daily practice.
PMCID: PMC3123966  PMID: 21624184
18.  Management of rheumatoid arthritis: consensus recommendations from the Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology 
Clinical Rheumatology  2010;30(3):303-312.
Given the recent availability of novel biologic agents for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology has developed consensus recommendations on the management of RA, which aim at providing guidance to local physicians on appropriate, literature-based management of this condition, specifically on the indications and monitoring of the biologic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The recommendations were developed using the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) recommendations for the management of early arthritis as a guide, along with local expert opinion. As significant joint damage occurs early in the course of RA, initiating therapy early is key to minimizing further damage and disability. Patients with serious disease or poor prognosis should receive early, aggressive therapy. Because of its good efficacy and safety profile, methotrexate is considered the standard first-line DMARD for most treatment-naïve RA patients. Patients with a suboptimal response to methotrexate monotherapy should receive step-up (combination) therapy with either the synthetic or biologic DMARDs. In recent years, combinations of methotrexate with tocilizumab, abatacept, or rituximab have emerged as effective therapies in patients who are unresponsive to traditional DMARDs or the anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α agents. As biologic agents can increase the risk of infections such as tuberculosis and reactivation of viral hepatitis, screening for the presence of latent tuberculosis and chronic viral hepatitis carrier state is recommended before initiating therapy.
PMCID: PMC3052444  PMID: 21046421
Hong Kong; Management; Recommendations; Rheumatoid arthritis
19.  A network meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of biologics for rheumatoid arthritis: a Cochrane overview 
We sought to compare the benefits and safety of 6 biologics (abatacept, adalimumab, anakinra, etanercept, infliximab and rituximab) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
In this network meta-analysis, we included all completed and updated Cochrane reviews on biologics for rheumatoid arthritis. We included data from all placebo-controlled trials that used standard dosing regimens. The major outcomes were benefit (defined as a 50% improvement in patient- and physician-reported criteria of the American College of Rheumatology [ACR50]) and safety (determined by the number of withdrawals related to adverse events). We used mixed-effects logistic regression to carry out an indirect comparison of the treatment effects between biologics.
Compared with placebo, biologics were associated with a clinically important higher ACR50 rate (odds ratio [OR] 3.35, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.62–4.29) and a number needed to treat for benefit of 4 (95% CI 4–6). However, biologics were associated with more withdrawals related to adverse events (OR 1.39, 95% CI 1.13–1.71), with a number needed to treat for harm of 52 (95% CI 29–152). Anakinra was less effective than all of the other biologics, although this difference was statistically significant only for the comparison with adalimumab (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.21–0.99) and etanercept (OR 0.34, 95% CI 0.14–0.81). Adalimumab, anakinra and infliximab were more likely than etanercept to lead to withdrawals related to adverse events (adalimumab OR 1.89, 95% CI 1.18–3.04; anakinra OR 2.05, 95% CI 1.27–3.29; and infliximab OR 2.70, 95% CI 1.43–5.26).
Given the limitations of indirect comparisons, anakinra was less effective than adalimumab and etanercept, and etanercept was safer than adalimumab, anakinra and infliximab. This summary of the evidence will help physicians and patients to make evidence-based choices about biologics for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
PMCID: PMC2780484  PMID: 19884297
20.  Do patients with older‐onset rheumatoid arthritis receive less aggressive treatment? 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2006;65(9):1226-1229.
Rheumatoid arthritis among elderly people is an increasingly important health concern. Despite several cross‐sectional studies, it has not been clearly established whether there are important clinical differences between elderly‐onset rheumatoid arthritis (EORA) and younger‐onset rheumatoid arthritis (YORA). The aim of this study was to compare disease activity and treatment in EORA and YORA, using the Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America (CORRONA) registry, a database generated by rheumatologist investigators across the USA. From the CORRONA registry database of 9381 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, 2101 patients with disease onset after the age of 60 years (EORA) were matched, on the basis of disease duration, with 2101 patients with disease onset between the ages of 40 and 60 years (YORA). The primary outcome measures were the proportion of patients on methotrexate, multiple disease‐modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD) and biological agents (etanercept, infliximab, adalimumab and kineret) in each group. Disease activity and severity differed slightly between the EORA and YORA groups: Disability Index of the Health Assessment Questionnaire: 0.30 v 0.35; tender joint count: 3.7 v 4.7; swollen joint count: 5.3 v 5.2; Disease Activity Score 28: 3.8 v 3.6; patient global assessment: 29.1 v 30.9; physician global assessment: 24.9 v 26.3; patient pain assessment: 31.4 v 34.9. Regarding treatment, the use of methotrexate use was slightly more common among patients with EORA (63.9%) than among those with YORA (59.6%), although the mean methotrexate dose among the YORA group was higher than that in the EORA group. The percentage of patients with EORA who were on multiple DMARD treatment (30.9%) or on biological agents (25%) was considerably lower than that of patients with YORA (40.5% and 33.1%, respectively; p<0.0001). Toxicity related to treatment was very minimal in both groups, whereas toxicities related to methotrexate were more common in the YORA group. Patients with EORA receive biological treatment and combination DMARD treatment less frequently than those with YORA, despite identical disease duration and comparable disease severity and activity.
PMCID: PMC1798297  PMID: 16414968
21.  Cost-utility analysis of certolizumab pegol versus alternative tumour necrosis factor inhibitors available for the treatment of moderate-to-severe active rheumatoid arthritis in Spain 
Certolizumab pegol, a PEGylated tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-inhibitor, improves the clinical signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) when used in combination with methotrexate or as monotherapy. This study evaluatedthe cost-utility of certolizumab pegol versusTNF-inhibitors plus methotrexate in the treatment of moderate-to-severe RA in Spain.
A Markov cohort health state transition model was developed to evaluate the cost-utility (costs and quality-adjusted life years [QALYs]) of certolizumab pegol versus other TNF-inhibitors licensed in Spain in 2009. Efficacy was measured using the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) responses at 6 months, based on adjusted indirect comparisons from published clinical trials. Utilities were derived from EQ-5D data from certolizumab pegol RA clinical trials. Clinical history and resource use data came from published literature. Unit costs were taken from Spanish databases or published data (cost year 2009). Base case analyses were conducted from the payer perspective, with a lifetime horizon, 3.5 % annual discounting rates for costs and outcomes, and 3 % inflation rate for 2009 onwards. One-way sensitivity analyses were conducted.
The average lifetime costs for certolizumab pegol, etanercept, adalimumab (every 2 weeks and weekly) and infliximab (3 mg/kg and 5 mg/kg) in combination with methotrexate were €140,971, €141,197, €139,148, €164,741, €136,961 and €152,561, respectively. The QALYs gained were 6.578, 6.462, 6.430 (for both adalimumab doses), 6.430, and 6.318 (for both infliximab doses), respectively. At a €30,000/QALY willingness-to-pay threshold, certolizumab pegol plus methotrexate dominated adalimumab weekly, etanercept, and infliximab 5 mg/kg, and was cost-effective versus adalimumab every 2 weeks and infliximab 3 mg/kg (all with methotrexate), with estimated ICERs of €12,346/QALY and €15,414/QALY, respectively. Certolizumab pegol monotherapy was more cost-effective versus adalimumab, and less expensive with similar health gains versus etanercept (6.416 QALYs vs 6.492). Univariate analysis showed ICERs to be sensitive to changes in time horizon, ACR response time point, baseline Heath Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) score, and rate of HAQ-disability index deterioration after discontinuing treatment.
This analysis shows that certolizumab pegol is cost-effective compared with other TNF-inhibitors recommended in Spain for the treatment of RA.
PMCID: PMC4484891  PMID: 26124700
22.  Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy and Safety of Existing TNF Blocking Agents in Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30275.
Background and Objectives
Five-tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-blockers (infliximab, etanercept, adalimumab, certolizumab pegol and golimumab) are available for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Only few clinical trials compare one TNF-blocker to another. Hence, a systematic review is required to indirectly compare the substances. The aim of our study is to estimate the efficacy and the safety of TNF-blockers in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and indirectly compare all five currently available blockers by combining the results from included randomized clinical trials (RCT).
A systematic literature review was conducted using databases including: MEDLINE, SCOPUS (including EMBASE), Cochrane library and electronic search alerts. Only articles reporting double-blind RCTs of TNF-blockers vs. placebo, with or without concomitant methotrexate (MTX), in treatment of RA were selected. Data collected were information of patients, interventions, controls, outcomes, study methods and eventual sources of bias.
Forty-one articles reporting on 26 RCTs were included in the systematic review and meta-analysis. Five RCTs studied infliximab, seven etanercept, eight adalimumab, three golimumab and three certolizumab. TNF-blockers were more efficacious than placebo at all time points but were comparable to MTX. TNF-blocker and MTX combination was superior to either MTX or TNF-blocker alone. Increasing doses did not improve the efficacy. TNF-blockers were relatively safe compared to either MTX or placebo.
No single substance clearly rose above others in efficacy, but the results of the safety analyses suggest that etanercept might be the safest alternative. Interestingly, MTX performs nearly identically considering both efficacy and safety aspects with a margin of costs.
PMCID: PMC3260264  PMID: 22272322
23.  Impact of concomitant DMARD therapy on adherence to treatment with etanercept and infliximab in rheumatoid arthritis. Results from a six-year observational study in southern Sweden 
The objective of this work is to compare the adherence to therapy of patients receiving etanercept and infliximab during first tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-blocking treatment course in rheumatoid arthritis. Special emphasis is placed on potential predictors for treatment termination and the impact of concomitant methotrexate (MTX) or other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Patients (n = 1,161) with active rheumatoid arthritis, not responding to at least two DMARDs including MTX starting etanercept or infliximab therapy for the first time, were included in a structured clinical follow-up protocol. Information on diagnosis, disease duration, previous and ongoing DMARDs, treatment start and termination, as well as cause of withdrawal was prospectively collected during the period of March 1999 through December 2004. Patients were divided into six groups according to TNF-blocking drugs and concomitant DMARDs. Five-year level (one-year) of adherence to therapy was 36% (69%) for patients receiving infliximab in combination with MTX compared with 65% (89%) for patients treated with etanercept and MTX (p < 0.001). Cox regression models showed that the risk for premature treatment termination of patients treated with infliximab was threefold higher than for etanercept (p < 0.001). Also, the regression analysis showed that patients receiving concomitant MTX had better treatment continuation than patients treated solely with TNF blockers (p < 0.001). Moreover, patients receiving concomitant MTX had superior drug survival than patients receiving other concomitant DMARDs (p < 0.010). The superior effect of MTX was associated primarily with fewer treatment terminations because of adverse events. In addition, the study identifies low C-reactive protein level, high age, elevated health assessment questionnaire score, and higher previous number of DMARDs as predictors of premature treatment termination. In summary, treatment with etanercept has higher adherence to therapy than treatment with infliximab. Concomitant MTX is associated with improved treatment continuation of biologics when compared with both TNF blockers as monotherapy and TNF blockers combined with other DMARDs.
PMCID: PMC1794519  PMID: 17121678
24.  TNF inhibitor therapy for rheumatoid arthritis 
Biomedical Reports  2012;1(2):177-184.
Immunotherapy has markedly improved treatment outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α antagonists, such as infliximab (IFX), etanercept (ETN), adalimumab (ADA), golimumab (GOLI) and certolizumab pegol (CZP) have been widely used for the treatment of RA. IFX provides significant, clinically relevant improvement in physical function and the quality of life, inhibits progressive joint damage and sustains improvement in the signs and symptoms of patients with RA. ETN is effective and safe for patients with RA. Combination therapy with ETN plus methotrexate (MTX) reduces disease activity, decreases total joint score progression, slows the pace of joint destruction and improves function more effectively compared to any of the monotherapies. ADA with or without MTX also relieves the signs and symptoms of RA. CZP and GOLI expand the therapeutic schedule for patients with RA. The TNF-α inhibitors have similar efficacy, but distinct clinical pharmacokinetic and -dynamic properties. The common adverse events of these TNF-α antagonists include adverse reactions, infections and injection-site reaction. Additionally, these adverse events are mostly mild or moderate and their incidence is low. Certain patients exhibit a lack of response to anti-TNF-α therapies. Some patients may discontinue the initial drug and switch to a second anti-TNF-α agent. The shortage of clinical response to one agent may not predict deficiency of response to another. This review mainly addresses the latest developments of these biological agents in the treatment of RA.
PMCID: PMC3956207  PMID: 24648915
rheumatoid arthritis; immunotherapy; biological agent
25.  Influence of tumor necrosis factor α in rheumatoid arthritis  
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most prevalent inflammatory rheumatic disorder. It is a chronic and incurable disease that leads to painful inflammation, often irreversible joint damage, and eventually to functional loss.
Conventional treatment is based on unspecific immunosuppressive agents, e.g. Methotrexate, Azathioprin or Gold. However, the longterm outcomes of these approaches have been poor with frequently ongoing inflammatory disease activity, functional decline, and temporary or permanent work disability. More recently, antagonists of the human cytokine Tumor Necrosis Factor α (TNF-α) have been introduced that are potent suppressors of inflammatory processes. Infliximab is a chimeric antibody against TNF-α. Etanercept is a soluble human TNF-α receptor.
The report assesses the efficacy of TNF-α-antagonists to down-regulate inflammation, improve functional status and prevent joint damage in RA with particular regard to the following indications: Treatment of severe, refractory and ongoing disease activity despite adequate use of conventional antirheumatic agents; and treatment of early RA before conventional treatment failure has been demonstrated.
A systematic review of the literature is been performed using established electronic databases. The literature search is supplemented by a hand search of journals and publications relevant to RA, reviews of websites of national and international rheumatologic expert societies, as well as contacts to manufacturers. A priori defined inclusion and exclusion criteria are used for literature selection. Analysis and evaluation of included publications are based on standardised criteria sets and checklists of the German Scientific Working Group for Technology Assessment in Health Care.
Health Technology Assessment reports and metaanalyses cannot be identified. A total of 12 clinical trials are analysed, as well as national and international expert recommendations and practice guidelines. Numerous non-systematic reviews are found and analysed for additional sources of information that is not identified through the systematic search. Case reports and safety assessements are considered as well. A total of 137 publications is included.
The primary outcome measures in clinical trials are suppression of inflammatory disease activity and slowing of structural joint damage. Clinical response is usually measured by standardised response criteria that allow a semi-quantitative classification of improvement from baseline by 20%, 50%, or 70%.
In patients with RA refractory to conventional treatment, TNF-α-antagonists are unequivocally superior to Methotrexate with regard to disease activity, functional status and prevention of structural damage. In patients with early RA, TNF-α-antagonists show a more rapid onset of anti-inflammatory effects than Methotrexate. However, differences in clinical response rates and radiologic progression disappear after a few months of treatment and are no longer statistically significant. Serious adverse events are rare in clinical trials and do not occur significantly more often than in the control groups. However, case reports and surveillance registries show an increased risk for serious infectious complications, particularly tuberculosis. Expert panels recommend the use of TNF-α-antagonists in patients with active refractory RA after failure of conventional treatment. Studies that compare Infliximab and Etanercept are lacking.
There are no pharmacoeconomic studies although decision analytic models of TNF-α-antagonists for the treatment of RA exist. Based on the results of the models, a combination therapy with Hydroxychloroquin (HCQ), Sulfaslazin (SASP) and Methotrexate as well as Etanercept/Methotrexate can be considered a cost-effective treatment for Methotrexate-resistant RA.
TNF-α-antagonists are clearly effective in RA patients with no or incomplete response to Methotrexate and superior to continuous use of Methotrexate. It refers to both, reduction of inflammatory disease activity including pain relief and improved functional status, and prevention of structural joint damage. Therefore, TNF-α-antagonism is an important new approach in the treatment of RA. There is still insufficient evidence that early use of TNF-α-antagonists in RA prior to standard agents is beneficial and further studies have to be awaited.
An analytic model suggests that TNF-α-antagonists are, due to their clinical effectiveness in patients with no or incomplete response to Methotrexate, a cost-effective alternative to common therapies chosen in the subpopulations of patients. Nevertheless, it has to be borne in mind that the acquisition costs of TNF-α-antagonists lead to high incremental costs and C/E ratios, which exceed the common frame of assessing the cost-effectiveness of medical methods and technologies. Hence, society's willingness-to-pay is the critical determinant in the question whether TNF-α-antagonists shall be reimbursed or not, or to define criteria for reimbursement. Changes in the quality of life attributable to the use of TNF-α-antagonists in RA have not yet been assessed which might assist the decision making.
With respect of the questions mentioned above and the potential financial effect of a systematic use of TNF-α-antagonists in the treatment of RA, we come to the conclusion that TNF-α-antagonists should not introduced as a standard benefit reimbursed by the statutory health insurers in Germany.
PMCID: PMC3011313  PMID: 21289933
health economics; tumor necrosis factor; TNF-alpha; treatment; rheumatoid arthritis; cost-effectiveness

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