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Pill Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Tasocitinib May Offer Alternative to Injectables, Which Carry Infection Risk and Hefty Price Tag

Tasocitinib Appears to Improve Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms continued...

But for the third primary study goal, remission according to the Disease Activity Score-28 (DAS-28) at three months, tasocitinib did not offer a substantial advantage at either dosage relative to placebo.

DAS-28 scores take into account such measures as the number of joints tender to the touch and the number of swollen joints. Using this measure, 10% of patients on the higher tasocitinib dosage, 6% on the lower dose, and 4% on placebo were in remission at three months. But the difference in remission rates did not reach what doctors call statistical significance, Fleischmann tells WebMD. He says he received consulting fees and research support from Pfizer, which makes the drug and funded the new study.

Tasocitinib: Safety Profile in Rheumatoid Arthritis

After three months, all patients in the placebo group were switched over to one of the two doses of tasocitinib for another three months; the patients who had been on tasocitinib stayed on their original doses.

Over the entire six-month period, 25 patients (4%) taking the new drug had serious adverse events, with six cases of serious infection.

On the positive side, "we have not seen the tuberculosis, or the opportunistic infections, that we've seen with [other drugs for RA]," Fleischmann says.

People taking tasocitinib were also more likely to experience drops in white blood cell count and increases in bad LDL cholesterol levels.

In findings that muddied the water, however, there was also an increase in good HDL cholesterol levels in some patients on tasocitinib.

"As a clinician, I'm not sure what this means," Fleischmann says.

Inflammation can depress blood lipid levels, and anti-inflammatory treatments can cause them to rise, he says.

Whether the LDL changes are actually harmful to patients is unclear, says Fleischmann, noting that tasocitinib was not associated with a rise in heart attack or stroke rates.

Says Matsumoto, "As with all drugs, we need long-term information on safety. But from both and effectiveness and safety view, tasocitinib looks to be very promising."

Tasocitinib is also being studied for the treatment of several other disorders, including psoriasis, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis. No price has been set.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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