Objective: To assess the safety of abatacept, a selective costimulation modulator, in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who had been receiving > or =1 traditional nonbiologic and/or biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) approved for the treatment of RA for at least 3 months prior to entry into the study.
Methods: This was a 1-year, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Patients were randomized 2:1 to receive abatacept at a fixed dose approximating 10 mg/kg by weight range, or placebo.
Results: The abatacept and placebo groups exhibited similar frequencies of adverse events (90% and 87%, respectively), serious adverse events (13% and 12%, respectively), and discontinuations due to adverse events (5% and 4%, respectively). Five patients (0.5%) in the abatacept group and 4 patients (0.8%) in the placebo group died during the study. Serious infections were more frequent in the abatacept group than in the placebo group (2.9% versus 1.9%). Fewer than 4% of patients in either group experienced a severe or very severe infection. The incidence of neoplasms was 3.5% in both groups. When evaluated according to background therapy, serious adverse events occurred more frequently in the subgroup receiving abatacept plus a biologic agent (22.3%) than in the other subgroups (11.7-12.5%).
Conclusion: Abatacept in combination with synthetic DMARDs was well tolerated and improved physical function and physician- and patient-reported disease outcomes. However, abatacept in combination with biologic background therapies was associated with an increase in the rate of serious adverse events. Therefore, abatacept is not recommended for use in combination with biologic therapy.