Purpose of review: The purpose of this review is to summarize the recent data on biologic therapies in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The armamentarium for treatment of juvenile idiopathic arthritis is expanding at a rapid rate, and improved physical and functional outcomes are anticipated. New data from large prospective randomized trials have demonstrated efficacy of anti-tumor necrosis factor agents and a costimulator signal inhibitor.
Recent findings: The results of a pivotal trial of infliximab in polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis suggested efficacy, but the primary outcome was not significantly different from placebo. Important information regarding dosing in children was obtained, however. A pivotal trial of adalimumab did prove efficacy, and resulted in U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The monoclonal antibodies to tumor necrosis factor appear to be more effective in treating chronic uveitis associated with juvenile idiopathic arthritis than etanercept. Anti-IL-1 and anti-IL-6 therapy, particularly for systemic disease patients, looks very promising, as well. The costimulation modifier abatacept was shown to be effective and relatively well tolerated in the short term, also resulting in FDA approval this year. Continued experience with these agents and appropriate systems-based methods such as formal registries, to complement existing FDA procedures for monitoring safety, will improve our ability to identify short-term and long-term toxicities of these new agents.
Summary: As experience is gained, and longer-term safety is demonstrated, it is likely that biologics will be introduced as therapy earlier in the course of patients who inadequately respond to conventional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.