New Drug Promising Against Rheumatoid Arthritis

MONDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- The immunosuppressive drug golimumab shows promise in treating rheumatoid arthritis patients who don't respond to other drugs, according to a new study. Golimumab is from the family of drugs called tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-a) inhibitors.

The new study included 461 patients in 10 countries who were randomly selected to receive either injections of placebo, 50 milligrams of golimumab or 100 milligrams of golimumab. The injections were given every four weeks for 24 weeks.

After 14 weeks, 35 percent of patients taking 50 milligrams of golimumab and 38 percent of those taking 100 milligrams of the drug achieved a 20 percent or higher improvement in American College of Rheumatology criteria for assessment of rheumatoid arthritis (ACR 20), compared with 18 percent of patients taking the placebo.

The study also found that among the 58 percent of patients who had discontinued a previous TNF-a inhibitor treatment because it wasn't effective, ACR 20 was achieved by 36 percent of patients taking 50 milligrams of golimumab, 43 percent of those taking 100 milligrams of golimumab and 18 percent of those in the placebo group.

After 24 weeks of treatment, serious adverse events were recorded in five percent of patients taking 50 milligrams of golimumab, four percent of those taking 100 milligrams of the drug and in 10 percent of patients on placebo.

"Golimumab reduces the signs and symptoms of active rheumatoid arthritis and improves physical function in patients who had previously received TNF-a inhibitors, which suggests that switching patients from one TNF-a inhibitor to golimumab is effective and generally well-tolerated," wrote Josef Smolen of the Medical University of Vienna and Hietzing Hospital in Vienna, Austria, and colleagues.

In a commentary, Dr. Yusuf Yazici of New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York City, said that "for those patients who have failed or had an inadequate response to etanercept, infliximab, adalimumab or abatacept, golimumab might be a good option."

The study, which was funded by drug makers Centocor, Inc. and Schering- Plough, appears online June 29 inThe Lancet.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects about 1.3 million people in the United States. TNF-a inhibitors are widely used to treat the disease, but 30 to 50 percent of patients treated with these drugs are intolerant or have an inadequate response to the drugs. Prior to this study, no controlled trials had examined whether patients who don't respond to one TNF-a inhibitor might respond to another.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, June 28, 2009

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