English articles on abatacept, golimumab, and tocilizumab in rheumatoid arthritis published between 2002 and 2009 were reviewed systematically. All randomized clinical trials, open-label extensions, meta-analyses, and reviews were examined. There were thirteen articles on abatacept, four on golimumab, and seven on tocilizumab. All three drugs were effective in methotrexate-naïve, methotrexate-incomplete responders, and tumor-necrosis-factor-failure rheumatoid arthritis patients. Of the three, only abatacept has been tested in a head-to-head trial with infliximab, in which it was found to be equivalent to infliximab. Golimumab resulted in a more modest improvement than the others in methotrexate-naïve patients, although no direct comparisons among the three drugs were possible or appropriate. Descriptive analysis of adverse events showed that patients receiving abatacept, golimumab, and tocilizumab were subject to more adverse events than controls overall, as expected. In the abatacept studies, a few cases of tuberculosis, more cardiovascular events and gastrointestinal bleedings and more basal cell carcinoma were seen. Golimumab was associated with more skin rashes and pneumonia, while tocilizumab was associated with increased lipids, more liver-function abnormalities, and neutropenia. These new medications are useful additions to the rheumatologic armamentarium and represent greater convenience (golimumab) or different mechanisms of action (abatacept and tocilizumab) than tumor-necrosis-factor inhibitors for treating rheumatoid arthritis. As expected, some adverse events occur when using these drugs and patients need to be watched carefully.
Keywords: Abatacept; Arthritis, rheumatoid; Biological products; Golimumab; Tocilizumab.