Medical University of Vienna researchers have shown that nearly half of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), who receive tocilizumab in addition to ongoing methotrexate therapy, showed a 50 per cent improvement in the symptoms at 24 weeks.
Also one fifth of the patients achieved a 70 per cent improvement in symptoms in the same period during the study, which was presented at EULAR 2007, the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology in Barcelona.
"These data show the potential of tocilizumab as a novel and attractive approach to treating RA. The symptom improvements observed across both 4mg/kg and 8mg/kg doses show that tocilizumab offers significant promise to patients with moderate and severe RA," said lead researcher Dr. Josef Smolen.
The researchers say that significant improvement in symptoms was observed in all patients receiving tocilizumab and methotrexate, compared to placebo and methotrexate.
They observed that 79.5 per cent of patients receiving tocilizumab 8mg/kg, and 61.9 per cent receiving 4mg/kg tocilizumab had achieved a good/moderate EULAR response, in comparison with placebo subjects.
A reduction in Disease Activity Score was also observed from two weeks onwards in both tocilizumab groups, say the researchers.
The study involved 623 patients with sustained moderate to severe RA despite long standing treatment with methotrexate. The subjects were permitted concurrent treatment with methotrexate at their pre-study dose, though treatment with all other disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs was discontinued at the beginning of the trial.
Tocilizumab is a novel humanised anti human interleukin 6 (IIL-6) receptor monoclonal antibody, a cytokine involved in the pathogenesis of RA.