New drug could revolutionise rheumatoid arthritis treatment

New drug could revolutionise rheumatoid arthritis treatment
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A new drug for treating rheumatoid arthritis has shown to be highly effective and could offer patients new hope.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. It is an autoimmune condition, and it is currently unknown what triggers this condition; however, genes, hormones, and smoking can be causes.

Researchers from MedUni Vienna are currently carrying out a Phase III clinical trial for a new drug for treating rheumatoid arthritis and have found it is as effective as the current “gold standard” treatment for this autoimmune disease.

The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Current treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis

Presently, a combination of the drugs adalimumab (which inhibits the mediator of inflammation TNF (tumour necrosis factor) and methotrexate (a folic acid antagonist) is the most effective option for patients who fail to respond quickly to initial treatment with methotrexate.

Despite this and other effective drug options, up to 25% of patients do not respond well to any current treatment options. This means that innovations are desperately needed to help patients who are not reacting well to existing treatments.

The new drug being trialled by MedUni Vienna is called olokizumab and is a humanised monoclonal antibody that directly targets the interleukin-6 cytokine. This is a messenger molecule that, like TNF, activates inflammatory responses in the body and is involved in the progression of joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis. This new drug is the first director inhibitor (blocker) of interleukin-6 and will soon be filed for approval for commercial use for this condition.

Phase III clinical trial

The Phase III clinical trial involved over 1,600 volunteers to test the efficacy of the new drug in combination with methotrexate and was tested against a placebo and adalimumab plus methotrexate.

The new treatment has shown to be more effective than the placebo and as effective as the current gold standard treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis.

“The new drug helps many patients with rheumatoid arthritis who failed methotrexate to achieve so-called low disease activity, which is the primary therapeutic goal in this population. Complete disappearance of symptoms of active disease, so-called remission, occurs in 1 out of 8 patients,” explained study lead Josef Smolen from the Division of Rheumatology within the Department of Medicine III at MedUni Vienna and University Hospital Vienna. “This new therapy will significantly expand the range of treatment options since this agent has a different mode of action than all other drugs.”

“This will give us another excellent treatment opportunity for our patients,” concluded Daniel Aletaha, Head of the Division of Rheumatology. “We soon will have another option for those patients who do not respond to first or subsequent therapies.”

The new drug will be filed for approval in the EU and the USA in the upcoming year and is expected to be employed in healthcare settings soon.


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