GCA and PMR - Some Study Updates
These article summaries are in the Lancet Rheumatology, Vol 3, Number 11, Nov 2021 which you can subscribe to online if you are interested.
Efficacy of rituximab in patients with polymyalgia rheumatica: a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, proof-of-concept trial
Diane E Marsman, MD
Nathan den Broeder, MSc
Prof Frank H J van den Hoogen, PhD
Alfons A den Broeder, PhD
Aatke van der Maas, PhD
Published:September 14, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2665-9913(21)00245-9
Recommend this journal to your librarian
Glucocorticoids remain the cornerstone of polymyalgia rheumatica treatment, but their use has several drawbacks, such as long treatment duration and glucocorticoid-related adverse events. Effective glucocorticoid-sparing agents with a strong evidence base in polymyalgia rheumatica are absent. As B cells have been implicated in the pathogenesis of polymyalgia rheumatica, we aimed to evaluate the efficacy of rituximab for the treatment of polymyalgia rheumatica.
We did a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, proof-of-concept trial at Sint Maartenskliniek, Nijmegen, Netherlands. We enrolled patients with polymyalgia rheumatica according to the 2012 European League Against Rheumatism and American College of Rheumatology criteria, who were recently diagnosed or who had relapsed on prednisolone and were unable to taper their dose to less than 7·5 mg per day. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1) to a single intravenous infusion of rituximab 1000 mg or placebo, with a 17-week glucocorticoid tapering scheme. Participants and care and research personnel were masked to treatment assignment and randomisation sequence. The primary outcome was glucocorticoid-free remission at 21 weeks after infusion in patients who completed the study. This trial is registered with EudraCT (2018-002641-11) and the Dutch trial database (NL7414).
Between Jan 14, 2019, and March 10, 2020, 116 patients were screened and 49 (42%) were enrolled. 47 patients (38 who were recently diagnosed, nine who had relapsed on prednisolone) completed the study: 23 (49%) in the rituximab group and 24 (51%) in the placebo group. Mean age (SD) in years was 64 (8) in the rituximab group and 66 (10) in the placebo group, the proportion of women was 11 (48%) of 23 versus 13 (54%) of 24, and all participants were White. 11 (48%) of 23 patients in the rituximab group and five (21%) of 24 in the placebo group achieved glucocorticoid-free remission at 21 weeks (difference 27% [one-sided 95% CI 4]; relative risk 2·3 [1·1]; p=0·049). Ten infusion-related complaints occurred in the rituximab group versus three in the placebo group (relative rate 3·5 [one-sided 95% CI 1·3]). One serious adverse event occurred (pulmonary embolism; in the rituximab group), and there were no deaths.
Rituximab was shown to be efficacious in combination with 17-week glucocorticoid treatment compared with glucocorticoid treatment alone in terms of glucocorticoid-free remission in patients with polymyalgia rheumatica. If these findings are confirmed by larger trials, rituximab could be a valuable glucocorticoid-sparing treatment for patients with polymyalgia rheumatica.
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