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New Drug Halts Arthritis Progression

Posted Oct 28 2008 9:46pm

Methotrexate is a drug commonly used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that belongs to a class of drugs known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD). It is one of a number of treatments available for RA.

That may change. According to a drug trial that was presented at the American College of Rheumatology in San Francisco indicates that methotrexate, when used in combination with tocilizumab, resulted in remission in 47% of the patients. This compares to only 8% for patients on methotrexate alone.

The trial involved nearly 1,200 patients from 15 countries with moderate RA who did not show adequate response to methotrexate. In addition to the significant remission rate, the use of tocilizumab with methotrexate slowed the structural damage of the joints by 85%, compared with 67% for those on methotrexate alone.

According to study leader Professor Paul Emery of Leeds University, “Results of this pivotal study convincingly demonstrate that tocilizumab can effectively and rapidly diminish the painful and debilitating effects of RA.

“These trial findings are significant because it is critical to stop joint damage as quickly as possible to avoid joint deformity and to help people with RA maintain their quality of life.”

Tocilizumab works differently than current standard treatments. It is a lab created antibody which blocks the activity of interleukin-6, which is an immune system signaling protein that acts as both a pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory.

There were some side effects of the combination treatment including respiratory infections, high blood pressure and headache.

Tocilizumab, which is manufactured by Roche and will be sold under the name RoActemra, has not yet been approved for use by US or European regulators.

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