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Biologics. 2012;6:191-9. doi: 10.2147/BTT.S32244. Epub 2012 Jul 2.

Rituximab is more effective than second anti-TNF therapy in rheumatoid arthritis patients and previous TNFα blocker failure.

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  • 1Clinic of Rheumatology and Orthopedics, Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg, Vogelsang-Gommern.



To assess the efficacy of one course of rituximab (two 1-g doses) compared to an alternative tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) blocker in rheumatoid arthritis patients who had experienced one previous TNFα blocker failure (eg, etanercept, adalimumab, or infliximab).


The efficacy of both treatments was studied in this retrospective, multicenter, noninterventional cohort study with 196 patients. All patients had active rheumatoid arthritis defined by a Disease Activity Score-28 of ≥3.2 despite having TNFα blocker therapy, and were followed over 6.6 months on average after switching to rituximab versus a second TNFα blocker (ie, switching to etanercept, adalimumab, or infliximab) at baseline.


At baseline, both cohorts showed similar demographic and disease-related characteristics (including Disease Activity Score-28). At the end of observation, mean Disease Activity Score-28 was significantly lower after treatment with rituximab than with a second TNFα blocker (-1.64 [95% confidence interval: -1.92; -1.36] versus -1.19 [95% confidence interval: -1.42; -0.96], P = 0.013). This difference between the two groups was even more pronounced when patients were seropositive for rheumatoid factor (-1.66 versus -1.17, P = 0.018) and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies (-1.75 versus -1.06, P = 0.002). More rituximab-treated patients achieved good European League Against Rheumatism response than TNFα blocker-treated patients (30% versus 15%), and less patients were nonresponders (22% versus 35%) according to European League Against Rheumatism criteria (P = 0.022, chi-squared test).


Treatment with rituximab was more effective than a second TNFα blocker therapy in rheumatoid arthritis patients after failure of the first TNFα blocker. It was found that anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies may be a useful predictive biomarker for response to rituximab in patients with TNFα blocker treatment failure.


anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies; rheumatoid arthritis; rheumatoid factor; rituximab

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