To evaluate the long-term efficacy and safety of subcutaneous (SC) tocilizumab (TCZ) versus intravenous (IV) TCZ, including switching formulations, in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and inadequate response to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
Patients (n=1262) were randomised 1:1 to receive TCZ-SC 162 mg weekly (qw)+placebo-IV every four weeks (q4w) or TCZ-IV 8 mg/kg q4w+placebo-SC qw in combination with DMARD(s). After a 24-week double-blind period, patients receiving TCZ-SC were re-randomised 11:1 to TCZ-SC (n=521) or TCZ-IV (TCZ-SC–IV, n=48), and patients receiving TCZ-IV were re-randomised 2:1 to TCZ-IV (n=372) or TCZ-SC (TCZ-IV–SC; n=186). Maintenance of clinical responses and safety through week 97 were assessed.
The proportions of patients who achieved American College of Rheumatology (ACR)20/50/70 responses, Disease Activity Score in 28 joints remission and improvement from baseline in Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index ≥0.3 were sustained through week 97 and comparable across arms. TCZ-SC had a comparable safety profile to TCZ-IV through week 97, except that injection site reactions (ISRs) were more common with TCZ-SC. Safety profiles in patients who switched were similar to those in patients who received continuous TCZ-SC or TCZ-IV treatment. The proportion of patients who developed anti-TCZ antibodies remained low across treatment arms. No association between anti-TCZ antibody development and clinical response or adverse events was observed.
The long-term efficacy and safety of TCZ-SC was maintained and comparable to that of TCZ-IV, except for ISRs. Profiles in patients who switched formulations were comparable to those in patients who received TCZ-IV or TCZ-SC. TCZ-SC provides additional treatment options for patients with RA.
Trial registration number
Rheumatoid Arthritis; DMARDs (biologic); Treatment
To investigate whether bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor approved for treatment of multiple myeloma, induces clinically relevant plasma cell (PC) depletion in patients with active, refractory systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Twelve patients received a median of two (range 1–4) 21-day cycles of intravenous bortezomib (1.3 mg/m2) with the coadministration of dexamethasone (20 mg) for active SLE. Disease activity was assessed using the SLEDAI-2K score. Serum concentrations of anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) and vaccine-induced protective antibodies were monitored. Flow cytometry was performed to analyse peripheral blood B-cells, PCs and Siglec-1 expression on monocytes as surrogate marker for type-I interferon (IFN) activity.
Upon proteasome inhibition, disease activity significantly declined and remained stable for 6 months on maintenance therapies. Nineteen treatment-emergent adverse events occurred and, although mostly mild to moderate, resulted in treatment discontinuation in seven patients. Serum antibody levels significantly declined, with greater reductions in anti-dsDNA (∼60%) than vaccine-induced protective antibody titres (∼30%). Bortezomib significantly reduced the numbers of peripheral blood and bone marrow PCs (∼50%), but their numbers increased between cycles. Siglec-1 expression on monocytes significantly declined.
These findings identify proteasome inhibitors as a putative therapeutic option for patients with refractory SLE by targeting PCs and type-I IFN activity, but our results must be confirmed in controlled trials.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Autoimmune Diseases; B cells; Treatment; Autoimmunity
To determine the safety, tolerability and signs of efficacy of MOR103, a human monoclonal antibody to granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Patients with active, moderate RA were enrolled in a randomised, multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-escalation trial of intravenous MOR103 (0.3, 1.0 or 1.5 mg/kg) once a week for 4 weeks, with follow-up to 16 weeks. The primary outcome was safety.
Of the 96 randomised and treated subjects, 85 completed the trial (n=27, 24, 22 and 23 for pooled placebo and MOR103 0.3, 1.0 and 1.5 mg/kg, respectively). Treatment emergent adverse events (AEs) in the MOR103 groups were mild or moderate in intensity and generally reported at frequencies similar to those in the placebo group. The most common AE was nasopharyngitis. In two cases, AEs were classified as serious because of hospitalisation: paronychia in a placebo subject and pleurisy in a MOR103 0.3 mg/kg subject. Both patients recovered fully. In exploratory efficacy analyses, subjects in the MOR103 1.0 and 1.5 mg/kg groups showed significant improvements in Disease Activity Score-28 scores and joint counts and significantly higher European League Against Rheumatism response rates than subjects receiving placebo. MOR103 1.0 mg/kg was associated with the largest reductions in disease activity parameters.
MOR103 was well tolerated and showed preliminary evidence of efficacy in patients with active RA. The data support further investigation of this monoclonal antibody to GM-CSF in RA patients and potentially in those with other immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.
Trial registration number
Rheumatoid Arthritis; DMARDs (biologic); DAS28; Treatment
To compare the effectiveness of rituximab versus an alternative tumour necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor (TNFi) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with an inadequate response to one previous TNFi.
SWITCH-RA was a prospective, global, observational, real-life study. Patients non-responsive or intolerant to a single TNFi were enrolled ≤4 weeks after starting rituximab or a second TNFi. Primary end point: change in Disease Activity Score in 28 joints excluding patient's global health component (DAS28-3)–erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) over 6 months.
604 patients received rituximab, and 507 an alternative TNFi as second biological therapy. Reasons for discontinuing the first TNFi were inefficacy (n=827), intolerance (n=263) and other (n=21). A total of 728 patients were available for primary end point analysis (rituximab n=405; TNFi n=323). Baseline mean (SD) DAS28-3–ESR was higher in the rituximab than the TNFi group: 5.2 (1.2) vs 4.8 (1.3); p<0.0001. Least squares mean (SE) change in DAS28-3–ESR at 6 months was significantly greater in rituximab than TNFi patients: −1.5 (0.2) vs −1.1 (0.2); p=0.007. The difference remained significant among patients discontinuing the initial TNFi because of inefficacy (−1.7 vs −1.3; p=0.017) but not intolerance (−0.7 vs −0.7; p=0.894). Seropositive patients showed significantly greater improvements in DAS28-3–ESR with rituximab than with TNFi (−1.6 (0.3) vs −1.2 (0.3); p=0.011), particularly those switching because of inefficacy (−1.9 (0.3) vs −1.5 (0.4); p=0.021). The overall incidence of adverse events was similar between the rituximab and TNFi groups.
These real-life data indicate that, after discontinuation of an initial TNFi, switching to rituximab is associated with significantly improved clinical effectiveness compared with switching to a second TNFi. This difference was particularly evident in seropositive patients and in those switched because of inefficacy.
Rheumatoid Arthritis; DMARDs (biologic); Anti-TNF; B cells; Treatment
The aim of this study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of rituximab (RTX) in a large cohort of patients with rheumatoid arthritis in routine care, and to monitor changes in daily practice since the introduction of RTX therapy.
This was a multicentre, prospective, non-interventional study conducted under routine practice conditions in Germany. Efficacy was evaluated using Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28) and Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disability Index (HAQ-DI). Safety was assessed by recording adverse drug reactions (ADRs). Physician and patient global efficacy and tolerability assessments were also evaluated.
Overall, 2,484 patients (76.7% female, mean age 56.4 years, mean disease duration 11.7 years) received RTX treatment (22.7% monotherapy). The total observation period was approximately six-years (median follow-up 14.7 months). RTX treatment led to improvements in DAS28 and HAQ-DI that were sustained over multiple courses. DAS28 improvements positively correlated with higher rheumatoid factor levels up to 50 IU/ml. Response and tolerability were rated good/very good by the majority of physicians and patients. Mean treatment intervals were 10.5 and 6.8 months for the first and last 400 enrolled patients, respectively. Infections were the most frequently reported ADRs (9.1%; 11.39/100 patient-years); approximately 1% of patients per course discontinued therapy due to ADRs.
Prolonged RTX treatment in routine care is associated with good efficacy and tolerability, as measured by conventional parameters and by physicians’ and patients’ global assessments. Rheumatoid factor status served as a distinct and quantitative biomarker of RTX responsiveness. With growing experience, physicians repeated treatments earlier in patients with less severe disease activity.
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.
Rheumatoid Arthritis; DMARDs (synthetic); DMARDs (biologic); Treatment; Early Rheumatoid Arthritis
In the IMAGE study, rituximab plus methotrexate (MTX) inhibited joint damage and improved clinical outcomes at 1 year in MTX-naïve patients with early active rheumatoid arthritis.
The aim of this study was to assess joint damage progression and clinical outcomes over 2 years.
Patients (n=755) were randomised to receive rituximab 2×500 mg+MTX, 2×1000 mg+MTX or placebo+MTX. The placebo-controlled period continued to week 104. Two-year end points were defined as secondary or exploratory and included change in total Genant-modified Sharp score (mTSS), total erosion score and joint space narrowing score from baseline to week 104. Clinical efficacy and physical function end points were also assessed.
At 2 years, rituximab 2×1000 mg+MTX maintained inhibition of progressive joint damage versus MTX alone (mTSS change 0.41 vs 1.95; p<0.0001 (79% inhibition)), and a higher proportion of patients receiving rituximab 2×1000 mg+MTX had no radiographic progression over 2 years compared with those receiving MTX alone (57% vs 37%; p<0.0001). Contrary to 1-year results, exploratory analysis of rituximab 2×500 mg+MTX at 2 years showed that progressive joint damage was slowed by ∼61% versus placebo+MTX (mTSS, exploratory p=0.0041). Improvements in clinical signs and symptoms and physical function seen after 1 year in rituximab-treated patients versus those receiving placebo were maintained at year 2. Safety profiles were similar between groups.
Treatment with rituximab 2×1000 mg+MTX was associated with sustained improvements in radiographic, clinical and functional outcomes over 2 years.
Clinical trials.gov identifier NCT00299104.
Objective. To assess the efficacy and safety profiles of two different rituximab retreatment regimens in patients with RA.
Methods. Four hundred and ninety-three RA patients with an inadequate response to MTX recruited into rituximab Phase II/III studies received further courses of open-label rituximab based on two approaches: (i) treatment to target (TT): patients assessed 24 weeks after each course and retreated if not in remission [DAS in 28 joints based on ESR (DAS-28-ESR) ≥ 2.6]; (ii) treatment as needed (PRN): patients retreated at the physician’s discretion ≥24 weeks following the first course and ≥16 weeks following further courses, if both swollen and tender joint counts were ≥8. All courses consisted of i.v. rituximab 2 × 1000 mg 2 weeks apart plus MTX. Observed data were analysed according to treatment strategy.
Results. Multiple courses of rituximab maintained or improved responses irrespective of regimen. TT provided tighter control of disease activity with significantly greater improvements in DAS-28-ESR and lower HAQ-disability index scores vs PRN. TT resulted in significantly more patients achieving major clinical response. PRN resulted in recurrence of disease symptoms between courses, with TT significantly reducing the incidence of RA flares. Despite more frequent retreatment with TT compared with PRN, the rates of serious adverse events and serious infections were comparable between regimens.
Conclusions. Retreatment with rituximab based on 24-week evaluations and to a target of DAS-28-ESR remission leads to improved efficacy and tighter control of disease activity compared with PRN without a compromised safety profile. TT may be the preferable rituximab treatment regimen for patients with RA.
Methotrexate-inadequate responder; Treatment to target; Treatment as needed; Retreatment; Rituximab; Treatment strategy
Evidence from a number of open-label, uncontrolled studies has suggested that rituximab may benefit patients with autoimmune diseases who are refractory to standard-of-care. The objective of this study was to evaluate the safety and clinical outcomes of rituximab in several standard-of-care-refractory autoimmune diseases (within rheumatology, nephrology, dermatology and neurology) other than rheumatoid arthritis or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in a real-life clinical setting.
Patients who received rituximab having shown an inadequate response to standard-of-care had their safety and clinical outcomes data retrospectively analysed as part of the German Registry of Autoimmune Diseases. The main outcome measures were safety and clinical response, as judged at the discretion of the investigators.
A total of 370 patients (299 patient-years) with various autoimmune diseases (23.0% with systemic lupus erythematosus, 15.7% antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated granulomatous vasculitides, 15.1% multiple sclerosis and 10.0% pemphigus) from 42 centres received a mean dose of 2,440 mg of rituximab over a median (range) of 194 (180 to 1,407) days. The overall rate of serious infections was 5.3 per 100 patient-years during rituximab therapy. Opportunistic infections were infrequent across the whole study population, and mostly occurred in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. There were 11 deaths (3.0% of patients) after rituximab treatment (mean 11.6 months after first infusion, range 0.8 to 31.3 months), with most of the deaths caused by infections. Overall (n = 293), 13.3% of patients showed no response, 45.1% showed a partial response and 41.6% showed a complete response. Responses were also reflected by reduced use of glucocorticoids and various immunosuppressives during rituximab therapy and follow-up compared with before rituximab. Rituximab generally had a positive effect on patient well-being (physician's visual analogue scale; mean improvement from baseline of 12.1 mm).
Data from this registry indicate that rituximab is a commonly employed, well-tolerated therapy with potential beneficial effects in standard of care-refractory autoimmune diseases, and support the results from other open-label, uncontrolled studies.
To confirm the effectiveness and safety of the interleukin 6-receptor antagonist tocilizumab in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in a setting close to real-life medical care in Germany.
A multicentre open-label phase IIIb study was undertaken. Patients with active RA with a 28-joint Disease Activity Score (DAS28) >3.2 despite previous disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) were treated with tocilizumab 8 mg/kg every 4 weeks. The primary end point was the proportion of patients achieving LDAS ≤3.2 at week 24; secondary end points included American College of Rheumatology (ACR), European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) or Clinical Disease Activity Index (CDAI) responses and decrease in acute phase. Analyses in subgroups such as rheumatoid factor (RF)-positive versus RF-negative patients and patients with an inadequate response to treatment with DMARDs (DMARD-IR) versus those with an inadequate response to tumour necrosis factor (TNF) antagonists (TNF antagonist-IR) were performed. Safety was assessed by adverse event documentation.
286 patients were treated and 83.6% completed the study. 41.6% had previously been treated with TNF antagonists. 57% of the intention-to-treat patients achieved the primary end point of LDAS, 47.6% achieved DAS remission <2.6 and a EULAR ‘good response’ was achieved by 54.9%; ACR50/70 response rates at week 24 were 50.7% and 33.9%, respectively. The mean±SD decrease in CDAI from baseline to week 24 was 71±29%. C reactive protein levels normalised rapidly within 1 week. Major improvements in fatigue, pain and morning stiffness were observed in the first 4 weeks and further improved until week 24. DAS28, EULAR and ACR responses at week 24 did not differ between RF-positive and RF-negative patients. TNF antagonist-naive patients responded better than patients who had previously failed on TNF antagonists. The safety profile of tocilizumab was comparable to that previously observed in the phase III trial programme. Serious infections were observed in 3.1% of patients.
Tocilizumab is highly effective in a setting close to real-life medical care with a rapid and sustained improvement in signs and symptoms of RA. A manageable safety profile was seen over the 24-week study period.
Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that has been found to be increased in type 2 diabetic subjects. However, it still remains unclear if these elevated IL-6 levels are co-incidental or if this cytokine is causally related to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes in humans. Therefore, in the present study we examined insulin sensitivity, serum adipokine levels and lipid parameters in human subjects before and after treatment with the IL-6 receptor antibody Tocilizumab.
11 non-diabetic patients with rheumatoid disease were included in the study. HOMA-IR was calculated and serum levels for leptin, adiponectin, triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol and lipoprotein (a) (Lp (a)) were measured before as well as one and three months after Tocilizumab treatment. The HOMA index for insulin resistance decreased significantly. While leptin concentrations were not altered by inhibition of IL-6 signalling, adiponectin concentrations significantly increased. Thus the leptin to adiponectin ratio, a novel marker for insulin resistance, exhibited a significant decrease. Serum triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol tended to be increased whereas Lp (a) levels significantly decreased.
Inhibition of IL-6 signalling improves insulin sensitivity in humans with immunological disease suggesting that elevated IL-6 levels in type 2 diabetic subjects might be causally involved in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance. Furthermore, our data indicate that inhibition of IL-6 signalling decreases Lp (a) serum levels, which might reduce the cardiovascular risk of human subjects.
Objective. To evaluate the efficacy and safety of three dosing and repeat treatment regimens of rituximab (RTX) plus MTX in patients with active RA.
Methods. Patients with active RA despite stable MTX (10–25 mg/week) were randomly assigned to one of the three treatment regimens comprising two courses of RTX given 24 weeks apart: 2 × 500 and 2 × 500 mg; 2 × 500 and 2 × 1000 mg (dose escalation); and 2 × 1000 and 2 × 1000 mg. The primary endpoint was proportion of patients achieving ACR20 at Week 48.
Results. At Week 48, ACR20 responses were not statistically significantly different between the dose regimens. Compared with RTX 2 × 500 mg (n = 134) or dose escalation (n = 119), ACR and European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) outcomes in the RTX 2 × 1000 mg group (n = 93) were consistently higher, with significantly more patients achieving EULAR responses (P = 0.0495). At Week 48, rituximab 2 × 1000 mg was associated with a higher proportion of patients who, following retreatment, maintained or improved their Week 24 responses. Dose escalation from 2 × 500 to 2 × 1000 mg did not appear to be associated with improved outcomes compared with continual 2 × 500 mg. All RTX regimens demonstrated comparable safety.
Conclusions. RTX 2 × 500 and 2 × 1000 mg could not be clearly differentiated, although some efficacy outcomes suggest improved outcomes in the rituximab 2 × 1000 mg group. Retreatment from Week 24 resulted in a sustained suppression of disease activity through to Week 48.
Trial registration. ClinicalTrials.gov, http://clinicaltrials.gov/, NCT00422383.
Rituximab; Rheumatoid arthritis; Repeat treatment; B-cell depletion; Phase III
Conventional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs such as methotrexate are the mainstay of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. More recently, biologic agents such as etanercept, infliximab and adalimumab, which act by inhibiting tumour necrosis factor (TNF), have become available. TNF inhibitors have proved to be very effective in patients not responding to conventional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. However, about 20% to 40% of patients treated with a TNF inhibitor fail to achieve a 20% improvement in American College of Rheumatology criteria, and more lose response over time (secondary failure or acquired therapeutic resistance) or experience adverse events following treatment with a TNF inhibitor. In this group of patients, therapeutic options were limited until recently and an established treatment approach was to switch from one TNF inhibitor to another. In recent years, therapeutic options in these patients have increased with the introduction of biologic agents with novel mechanisms of action, such as rituximab and abatacept. This review outlines the current evidence in support of the available treatment strategies in patients with an inadequate response or intolerance to an initial TNF inhibitor.
Since approval of tocilizumab (TCZ) for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), interleukin 6 (IL-6) pathway inhibition was evaluated in trials of TCZ and other agents targeting the IL-6 receptor and ligand in various RA populations and other inflammatory diseases. This consensus document informs on interference with the IL-6 pathway based on evidence and expert opinion.
Preparation of this document involved international experts in RA treatment and RA patients. A systematic literature search was performed that focused on TCZ and other IL6-pathway inhibitors in RA and other diseases. Subsequently, incorporating available published evidence and expert opinion, the steering committee and a broader expert committee (both including RA patients) formulated the current consensus statement.
The consensus statement covers use of TCZ as combination- or monotherapy in various RA populations and includes clinical, functional and structural aspects. The statement also addresses the second approved indication in Europe JIA and non-approved indications. Also early phase trials involving additional agents that target the IL-6 receptor or IL-6 were evaluated. Safety concerns, including haematological, hepatic and metabolic issues as well as infections, are addressed likewise.
The consensus statement identifies points to consider when using TCZ, regarding indications, contraindications, screening, dose, comedication, response evaluation and safety. The document is aimed at supporting clinicians and informing patients, administrators and payers on opportunities and limitations of IL-6 pathway inhibition.
Rheumatoid Arthritis; DMARDs (biologic); Treatment
This study compared the efficacy and safety of subcutaneous (SC) versus intravenous (IV) formulations of tocilizumab in patients with rheumatoid arthritis with an inadequate response to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD).
Patients (n=1262) were randomly assigned to receive tocilizumab-SC 162 mg weekly+placebo-IV every 4 weeks or tocilizumab-IV 8 mg/kg every 4 weeks+placebo-SC weekly in combination with traditional DMARD. The primary outcome was to demonstrate the non-inferiority of tocilizumab-SC to tocilizumab-IV with regard to the proportion of patients in each group achieving an American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 20 response at week 24 using a 12% non-inferiority margin (NIM). Secondary outcomes were disease activity score using 28 joints (DAS28), ACR responses, health assessment questionnaire scores and safety assessments.
At week 24, 69.4% (95% CI 65.5 to 73.2) of tocilizumab-SC-treated patients versus 73.4% (95% CI 69.6 to 77.1) of tocilizumab-IV-treated patients achieved an ACR20 response (weighted difference between groups −4.0%, 95% CI −9.2 to 1.2); the 12% NIM was met. ACR50/70 responses, DAS28 and physical function improvements were comparable between the tocilizumab-SC and tocilizumab-IV groups. The safety profiles of tocilizumab-SC and tocilizumab-IV were similar, and the most common adverse event was infection. Injection-site reactions (ISR) occurred more frequently in the tocilizumab-SC group than in the tocilizumab-IV (placebo-SC) group. No anaphylaxis was reported over the 24 weeks.
Tocilizumab-SC 162 mg weekly demonstrated comparable efficacy to tocilizumab-IV 8 mg/kg. The safety profile of tocilizumab-SC is consistent with the known and well-established safety profile of tocilizumab-IV, with the exception of a higher incidence of ISR, which were more common with tocilizumab-SC administration.
Rheumatoid Arthritis; DMARDs (biologic); Disease Activity