Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a painful, chronic, progressive and disabling auto-immune disease. Newly released data has shown that a novel biologic, Actemra™ (tocilizumab), is superior to current standard of care in RA patients. Actemra™ is a humanised monoclonal antibody to the interleukin-6 receptor that blocks the activity of interleukin-6, a protein that plays a major role in the RA inflammatory process. Actemra™ is awaiting approval in the United States and Europe. In Japan, Actemra™ was approved for the treatment of RA in April 2008.
Other biologics are already used to treat RA and act at different points in the inflammatory process.
Orencia® (abatacept) works by reducing the activation of T-cells, which reduces the activation of other cells in the RA inflammatory process. Humera®(adalimumab), Enbrel®( etanercept) and Remicade® (infliximab) block the action of TNF-alpha, an inflammatory cytokine that leads to tissue damage. Mabthera® (rituximab) targets B cells, one of the key players in the pathogenesis of RA. Kineret® (anakinra) blocks the actions of the cytokine, IL-1.
The biologic medicines are usually prescribed together with the disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug, methotrexate.