Professor Shumpei Yokota, working at the Yokohama City University School of Medicine in Japan, conducted the first double-blind, placebo controlled trial for tocilizumab, previously known as MRA. The drug is currently undergoing phase III trials for moderate to severe adult onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as well as sJIA. Tocilizumab blocks the action of a protein, called interleukin 6 (IL-6), which provokes inflammation.

The study presented by Yokota and the research team involved a total of 56 children, 35 of them were female, and the mean age was 8.3 years old. Disease activity was assessed in a number of ways such as number of active joints, number of joints with limitations of motion, physician’s/parent’s global assessment, two inflammatory disease parameters (ESR and CRP) and through a parental heath assessment questionnaire (CHAQ).

68% of the children had an improvement rate of 70%, while more than 85% had an improvement rate of 50%. Treatment was generally well tolerated, though two patients experienced serious adverse events; one anaphylactoid reaction and one gastrointestinal haemorrhage. Both patients returned to normal after discontinuation of tocilizumab.

“The goals of the treatment for children with arthritis are to relieve pain and inflammation, slow down or prevent the destruction of joints, as well as restore use and function of the joints to promote optimal growth, physical activity, and social and emotional development in the child. This study confirms that tocilizumab is one of the most promising therapies to treat children with sJIA who have not benefited from conventional therapies”, said Yokota.

MEDICA.de; Source: EULAR Congress Press Office