A New Drug for Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2008?

Mark Borigini, M.D. Health Pro
  • The American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston last week provided more good data on the new-and investigational--rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra, an IL-6 inhibitor.


    Studies of Actemra found that about 60% of the patients taking that drug with a traditional disease modifying drug achieved a 20% reduction in symptoms compared with 25% in the control group. More importantly, about one-third of the patients taking Actemra went into remission, according to the latest data presented in Boston. The use of drugs such as methotrexate alone results in only a 1% to 3% incidence of remission. So, it would seem that this new mechanism to fight rheumatoid arthritis, namely the inhibition of the interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor is a successful alternative for patients failing the more traditional rheumatoid arthritis drugs.

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    Based on the positive data that has been derived from studies, the maker of Actemra, Roche, will likely be asking for FDA approval for the use of Actemra in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis before the end of the year.


    Actemra is the first humanized interleukin-6 receptor inhibiting monoclonal antibody.


    The studies thus far performed with Actemra have shown an improvement in patient quality of life and daily functioning compared to those rheumatoid arthritis patients not taking Actemra, with less fatigue and improvement in performing mental and physical tasks. It appears that Actemra is at least as effective as the tumor necrosis factor inhibiting drugs already on the market in the United States (those being Enbrel, Remicade and Humira).


    Actemra was administered intravenously every four weeks in the study presented in Boston.


    Actemra appears to be well-tolerated by patients, with the most common adverse events being upper respiratory tract infections, headache, pharyngitis and high blood pressure. Some of us might feel a little more assured if a drug is safe to use in children. And in a study on juvenile arthritis presented at last year's meeting in Washington, D.C., children were administered Actemra every two weeks; there were no reports of serious side effects.


    As we move into the holiday season, those patients who are not doing so well on their current rheumatoid arthritis treatment do indeed have the hope of a new treatment which may be available in the coming year.


    I know I am excited at the prospect of a new drug with a novel mechanism of action-which appears to work.


    Related Information:


    Actemra Effective for Rheumatoid Arthritis


    Rheumatoid Factor Revisited - An Update from the American College of Rheumatology


    Arthritis Drug Effective in Late-Stage Trial



Published On: November 28, 2007