Immunotherapy has markedly improved treatment outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α antagonists, such as infliximab (IFX), etanercept (ETN), adalimumab (ADA), golimumab (GOLI) and certolizumab pegol (CZP) have been widely used for the treatment of RA. IFX provides significant, clinically relevant improvement in physical function and the quality of life, inhibits progressive joint damage and sustains improvement in the signs and symptoms of patients with RA. ETN is effective and safe for patients with RA. Combination therapy with ETN plus methotrexate (MTX) reduces disease activity, decreases total joint score progression, slows the pace of joint destruction and improves function more effectively compared to any of the monotherapies. ADA with or without MTX also relieves the signs and symptoms of RA. CZP and GOLI expand the therapeutic schedule for patients with RA. The TNF-α inhibitors have similar efficacy, but distinct clinical pharmacokinetic and -dynamic properties. The common adverse events of these TNF-α antagonists include adverse reactions, infections and injection-site reaction. Additionally, these adverse events are mostly mild or moderate and their incidence is low. Certain patients exhibit a lack of response to anti-TNF-α therapies. Some patients may discontinue the initial drug and switch to a second anti-TNF-α agent. The shortage of clinical response to one agent may not predict deficiency of response to another. This review mainly addresses the latest developments of these biological agents in the treatment of RA.
Keywords: biological agent; immunotherapy; rheumatoid arthritis.