Tocilizumab for rheumatoid arthritis: A cochrane systematic review

Academic Article


  • Objective: To compare the benefit and safety of tocilizumab to placebo in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methods: We searched multiple databases for published randomized or controlled clinical trials comparing benefit and safety of tocilizumab to placebo, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD), or other biologics. For dichotomous outcomes, we calculated the relative risk, and for continuous outcomes, the mean difference. Results: Eight randomized controlled trials were included in this systematic review, with 3334 participants, 2233 treated with tocilizumab and 1101 controls. The US and Canadian approved dose of tocilizumab, 8 mg/kg every 4 weeks, was given to 1561 participants. In patients taking concomitant methotrexate, compared to placebo, patients treated with approved dose of tocilizumab were substantially and statistically significantly more likely than placebo to achieve the American College of Rheumatology 50 (absolute percentage, 38.8% vs 9.6%, respectively; RR 3.2, 95% CI 2.7, 3.7); Disease Activity Score remission (30.5% vs 2.7%; RR 8.7, 95% CI 6.3, 11.8); and a clinically meaningful decrease in Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ)/Modified HAQ scores (60.5% vs 34%; RR 1.8, 95% CI 1.6, 1.9). There were no substantive statistically significant differences in serious adverse effects (0.8% vs 0.7%; RR 1.2, 95% CI 0.8, 1.6) or withdrawals due to adverse events (4.9% vs 3.7%; RR 1.4, 95% CI 0.9, 2.1); however, tocilizumab-treated patients were significantly more likely to have any adverse event (74% vs 65%; RR 1.05, 95% CI 1.03, 1.07); elevation in the ratio of low-density lipoprotein to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL; 20% vs 12%; RR 1.7, 95% CI 1.2, 2.2); and increase in the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol (12% vs 7%; RR 1.7, 95% CI 1.2, 2.6); and they were less likely to withdraw from treatment for any reason (8.1% vs 14.9%; RR 0.6, 95% CI 0.5, 0.8). Conclusion: At the approved dose of 8 mg/kg every 4 weeks, tocilizumab in combination with methotrexate/DMARD is beneficial in decreasing RA disease activity and improving function. Tocilizumab treatment was associated with a significant increase in cholesterol levels and occurrence of any adverse event, but not serious adverse events. Larger safety studies are needed to address these safety concerns.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Singh JA; Saba B; Lopez-Olivo MA
  • Start Page

  • 10
  • End Page

  • 20
  • Volume

  • 38
  • Issue

  • 1