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Studies Back New RA Drug

Researchers Say Actemra May Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis and Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Study

The juvenile idiopathic arthritis trial included 56 children in Japan who had tried other drugs to treat their arthritis.

First, all of the children got three doses of Actemra every two weeks for six weeks. Then 43 kids whose arthritis had improved with Actemra treatment kept getting Actemra; all in all, they took Actemra for four months.

Actemra trumped the placebo and "might be a suitable treatment in the control of this disorder, which has so far been difficult to manage," write Yokohama City University's Shumpei Yokota, MD, and colleagues.

Adverse events were typical of other biologic drugs and included upper respiratory-tract infections and stomach flu. Anaphylactic allergic reactions and increases in liver enzyme levels were rarer.

The study was funded by Chugai Pharmaceutical Co.

Expert: Head-to-Head Trials Needed

Editorialist Tim Bongartz, MD, who works at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., writes that he is "excited about the ongoing expansion of therapeutic options for rheumatoid arthritis and, especially, systemic [juvenile idiopathic arthritis]."

But he cautions that the evidence doesn't show how Actemra's risks and benefits stack up against other treatment choices.

"In an ideal world, comparative trials of new drugs with other effective treatments, powered to detect important safety and efficacy endpoints, would provide this information, which I regard as essential," writes Bongartz.

"It is not clear that these trials will be available before the likely approval of tocolizumab [Actemra], and it may be up to investigators to initiate the head-to-head comparisons needed to address these issues," adds Bongartz.

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