Recent years have seen many exciting developments in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Tocilizumab (TCZ) is a monoclonal antibody which inhibits the interleukin-6 receptor. After initial studies in Japan, it has been extensively studied in five multicentre clinical trials. This report summarises the key efficacy and toxicity findings from the major clinical trials. TCZ works quickly and effectively in rheumatoid arthritis either as monotherapy or in combination with other agents in early disease, DMARD inadequate responders, seronegative disease and after anti-TNF failure. The toxicity profile is manageable but includes infections (most notably skin and soft tissue), increases in serum cholesterol, transient decreases in neutrophil count and abnormal liver function tests (especially in combination with methotrexate). In summary, there is sufficient evidence to make TCZ a first line biologic therapy for rheumatoid arthritis especially for those who are unable to take methotrexate or who fail anti-TNF therapy.
Keywords: clinical trials; interleukin-6; rheumatoid; therapy.