January 22, 1997

Biological Response Modifiers May Yield a New Class of Drugs to Treat Arthritis

JAMA. 1997;277(4):276-278. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540280014008

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ENCOURAGING results from phase II clinical trials suggest that 3 genetically engineered agents could become the first of a new class of pharmaceuticals for treating rheumatoid arthritis. The results of the randomized, placebocontrolled trials were reported at the 1996 Scientific Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in Orlando, Fla.

Unlike current therapies, the new agents are aimed at specific targets in the immune system. They work by blocking the biological processes that drive bone and cartilage destruction in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

While nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis, they do not prevent the progressive destruction of the joints. More potent drugs, known as disease modifiers, can retard disease progression in some patients. However, these drugs take a long time to yield clinical improvement and often produce adverse reactions that can be worse than the arthritis—such as osteoporosis from corticosteroids (JAMA