Objectives To update the evidence for the efficacy of biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARD) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to inform the European League Against Rheumatism(EULAR) Task Force treatment recommendations.
Methods Medline, Embase and Cochrane databases were searched for articles published between January 2009 and February 2013 on infliximab, etanercept, adalimumab, certolizumab-pegol, golimumab, anakinra, abatacept, rituximab, tocilizumab and biosimilar DMARDs (bsDMARDs) in phase 3 development. Abstracts from 2011 to 2012 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and 2011–2013 EULAR conferences were obtained.
Results Fifty-one full papers, and 57 abstracts were identified. The randomised controlled trials (RCT) confirmed the efficacy of bDMARD+conventional synthetic DMARDs (csDMARDs) versus csDMARDs alone (level 1B evidence). There was some additional evidence for the use of bDMARD monotherapy, however bDMARD and MTX combination therapy for all bDMARD classes was more efficacious (1B). Clinical and radiographic responses were high with treat-to-target strategies. Earlier improvement in signs and symptoms were seen with more intensive initial treatment strategies, but outcomes were similar upon addition of bDMARDs in patients with insufficient response to MTX. In general, radiographic progression was lower with bDMARD use, mainly due to initial treatment effects. Although patients may achieve bDMARD- and drug-free remission, maintenance of clinical responses was higher with bDMARD continuation (1B), but bDMARD dose reduction could be applied (1B). There was still no RCT data for bDMARD switching.
Conclusions The systematic literature review confirms efficacy of biological DMARDs in RA. It addresses different treatment strategies with the potential for reduction in therapy, particularly with early disease control, and highlights emerging therapies.
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