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New RA Drugs Show Promise

Pipeline Is Packed With New Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments
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New Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs continued...

Denosumab. This drug works differently than TNF-blockers. Denosumab targets a protein involved in the destruction of joints known as RANK ligand. But it doesn’t have any effect on the symptoms of RA.

“It is just affecting RANK ligand, and RANK ligand is involved in the bony erosions, not the overall process that leads to signs and symptoms,” explains Desiree van der Heijde, MD, a rheumatologist at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Ofatamumab (HuMax-CD20). Another new agent, ofatamumab, targets B-cells, which are cells of the immune system that are believed to play a role in causing inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. This drug binds to the surface of B-cells, effectively killing them off.

New research presented here shows that people with RA who received the drug did better than those who received a placebo or dummy pill. People with RA who were also taking methotrexate in combination with ofatamumab responded better than those taking the ofatamumab alone, says researcher Mikkel Ostergaard, MD, of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

Tocilizumab. This drug blocks another inflammatory chemical known as interleukin-6 (IL-6). New research presented here showed that it significantly reduces inflammation in RA within about two weeks' time. When given at the highest dose used in the study, it normalized levels of C-reactive protein, which is an indicator of inflammation in the body.

There were some side effects, however, including infections and an increase in levels of blood cholesterol and liver enzymes, reports Josef Smolen, MD, a rheumatologist at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria.

But “there was a rapid and significant improvement in the signs and symptoms of RA,” he says.

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