A phase 3 clinical study of rituximab(Rituxan) for the treatment of rheumatoidarthritis (RA) showed that patients whoreceived 2 infusions of rituximab alongwith a stable dose of methotrexate experienceda 20%, 50%, and 70% improvementin the number of swollen and tenderjoints, as compared with a placebo.These percentages correspond to a standardassessment used by the AmericanCollege of Rheumatology (ACR) thatmeasures patients' responses to antirheumatictherapies. The 24-week, multicenter,double-blind, placebo-controlledstudy included 520 patients with activeRA who had not responded well to priortreatment with >1 anti-tumor necrosisfactor (TNF) therapies. Among those whoreceived rituximab, 51% achieved ACR20, compared with 18% of placebopatients; 27% achieved ACR 50, comparedwith 5% in the placebo group; and12% achieved ACR 70, compared with1% in the placebo group. The incidenceof serious infections was low in both therituximab and the placebo groups—2%and 1%, respectively. Clinicians areencouraged by this trial, because fewoptions currently exist for RA patientswho do not respond to anti-TNF therapy.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medicalwriter based in Wakefield, RI.