RA Drugs Go Head-to-Head

Rheumatoid arthritis drug tocilizumab outperforms adalimumab in reducing disease activity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There are many drugs that treat rheumatoid arthritis, and each drug works differently from the next. With all the mystery surrounding rheumatoid arthritis, it can be hard to tell which drug works best for each patient.

Tocilizumab (sold as Actemra and RoActemra) may be a better drug treatment compared to adalimumab (sold as Humira) for rheumatoid arthritis patients.

"Ask your doctor which arthritis drug is best for you."

About one-third of rheumatoid arthritis patients receive some kind of monotherapy (treatment with one drug), explains Professor Cem Gabay MD, PhD, from University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland.

"This study clearly shows the benefits of tocilizumab over adalimumab on various measures of rheumatoid arthritis disease activity and is the first study of its kind to determine superiority between two approved [rheumatoid arthritis] drugs," says Professor Gabay.

From their study, the researchers found that tocilizumab outperformed adalimumab in reducing the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

To measure arthritis activity, they used an index called DAS28 (Disease Activity Score). A higher DAS28 score is a sign of higher disease activity.

The study's results show that tocilizumab was more successful than adalimumab at putting arthritis into remission (a state in which there is no disease activity). Nearly 40 percent of patients on tocilizumab went into remission, compared to 10.5 percent of patients on adalimumab.

Similarly, tocilizumab was more effective at bringing patients' arthritis to low levels of disease activity. More than half of tocilizumab patients reached low disease activity, compared to 19.8 percent of adalimumab patients.

The researchers also used American College of Rheumatology criteria to measure patients' tender or swollen joints. Tocilizumab treatment led to greater improvement in the number of tender or swollen joints, compared to adalimumab treatment.

Both drug treatments have a similar number of negative side effects.

The study included 325 patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The results were presented at the 2012 Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism. The study has yet to be evaluated by a peer-reviewed academic journal. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 6, 2012
Last Updated:
October 15, 2012