Rituximab shown to significantly inhibit structural damage of joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis

New data presented at the EULAR meeting (European League Against Rheumatism) show for the first time that MabThera (rituximab), a unique B cell targeted therapy, is able to significantly inhibit structural damage of joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The study was conducted in patients who had an inadequate response to one or more TNF inhibitors and they received either MabThera plus methotrexate (MTX) or MTX alone. X-ray evidence at 56 weeks showed that the progression of bone erosions and progression of narrowing of joint spaces in patients in the MabThera group were reduced by more than 50 % compared to patients receiving MTX alone (erosion scores of 0.59 and 1.32 respectively; joint space narrowing scores of 0.41 and 0.99 respectively).

Damage to the structure of the joints ultimately causes destruction of the joints and contributes to joint deformity and loss of mobility. Patients' ability to work and perform every day tasks such as getting dressed, walking and eating can be severely hampered.

Presenting the results, Professor Keystone, Rheumatology Department at the University of Toronto, Canada, said: "This is the first evidence demonstrating that MabThera can inhibit structural joint damage in patients with an inadequate response to one or more TNF inhibitors. Preventing structural damage is a critical outcome in treating rheumatoid arthritis. These X-ray data confirm MabThera as an effective and innovative therapy for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and highlight the value of targeting B cells."

Additional new data presented at EULAR demonstrate that repeat courses of MabThera in RA patients, 6 to 12 months after the initial course, provide continued improvement of symptoms across all clinical measures. Each treatment course consists of two infusions of 1000mg given two weeks apart. The challenging goal of treatment in RA is remission and, following a second course of MabThera in patients with an inadequate response to one or more TNF inhibitors, the number of patients achieving remission doubled from 6 % following an initial course to 13 % following a second course. A similar trend was seen for those achieving the hard-to-reach goal of a 70 % improvement in symptoms (ACR70), with responses increasing from 12 % following an initial course to 21 % following a second course.

Importantly, data presented at EULAR show improvements in clinical scores are reflected in patient reported outcomes.

"While it is important to a physician to address a disease from a clinical perspective, what matters most to the patient is whether they are able to function normally and how well they feel. For example, the impact of fatigue is often underestimated, but this is something which really impacts patients' lives. MabThera has demonstrated continuous improvements in physical and mental health aspects with repeated courses of therapy", said Professor Tak, Director, Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at the Academic Medical Centre/University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

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