Drugs that Work for RA Patients

Rheumatoid arthritis patients using abatacept or adalimumab see improvement in tender or swollen joint count

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) If you have to take medication for your rheumatoid arthritis, you want options. When it comes to choosing which drug is right for you, you also want to know how well those drug options work.

After taking abatacept (Orencia) for one year, rheumatoid arthritis patients significantly improved their tender or swollen joints.

"Ask your doctor about rheumatoid arthritis medications."

According to lead author Michael Schiff, MD, of the University of Colorado, there have been few studies that put rheumatoid arthritis drugs head-to-head.

For their recent study, Dr. Schiff and colleagues compared the safety and effectiveness of abatacept to that of adalimumab (Humira).

Abatacept is produced and sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb under the brand name Orencia. It is a biologic drug that reduces the activation of cells involved in the inflammatory process of rheumatoid arthritis, which in turn reduces pain and swelling.

Adalimumab is produced and sold by Abbott under the brand name Humira. It is an anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) drug. Like abatacept, adalimumab reduces pain and inflammation.

From their study, the researchers found that 64.8 percent of patients taking abatacept achieved ACR20 - a treatment goal that indicates 20 percent improvement in tender or swollen joints. Similarly, 63.4 percent of patients taking adalimumab achieved ACR20.

ACR70 (70 percent improvement) was achieved by 29.2 percent of those taking abatacept and 26.2 percent of those taking adalimumab.

A similar number of patients in both groups achieved ACR50 (50 percent improvement) and ACR70 (70 percent improvement) after one year of treatment.

These findings show that abatacept takes about the same amount of time as adalimumab to have an impact on patients' symptoms.

"This study is a great leap forward for us and our patients, as it shows there is another treatment option that is as effective and as safe as adalimumab," says Dr. Schiff.

The researchers also saw similar rates of negative side effects in both groups.

The study included 646 rheumatoid arthritis patients who did not respond well to treatment with methotrexate, the most commonly used drug treatment for moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

The research received support from Bristol-Myers Squibb.

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

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 7, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012