Additionally, more studies must be done to determine which traditional rheumatoid arthritis treatments (for example, methotrexate) are most effective in combination with Rituxan.
The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis remains a challenge, but the continued research in novel ways of treating this illness continues to give physicians and patients hope that someday there will be an outright cure.
Christine Miller, RA Patient Expert:
Two new biotech drugs have been approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis since December of 2005. Orencia and Rituxan are the newest options for patients with severe RA who are not responding to methotrexate and other TNF-inhibitors. Patients now are weighing the effectiveness of these new drugs against the risks of side effects and the expense. A June 20 article in the Wall Street Journal online discusses these drugs and other treatment options for patients suffering from RA.
Orencia, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, was approved in December. It suppresses the immune system by inhibiting T-cells, a type of white blood cells that attack antibodies and foreign substances in the body. The typical course of treatment involves a visit to a clinic or doctors office once every four weeks for a 30-minute infusion. Patients often use this drug in combination with methotrexate.
Rituxan, sold by Genentech, Inc. and Biogen Idec, Inc, was approved for the treatment of RA in February. It was originally developed and marketed as treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Rituxan kills B-cells, white blood cell made in the bone marrow that releases antibodies in an immune system response. The typical course of treatment is two infusions, lasting for 3-6 hours, spaced two weeks apart.
Patients who take these drugs have the potential for lasting relief from pain, inflammation, and joint damage. However, there are downsides to these drugs, similar to the other biotech drugs. These drugs have the same logistical inconvenience of some TNF-inhibitors because they both require office or clinic visits for administration of the drugs. But to many patients, this may be the least burdensome of the considerations.