Introduction: Tocilizumab (TCZ), a humanized anti-IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) monoclonal antibody, has demonstrated efficacy and tolerability in several large randomized, controlled trials for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Areas covered: This article compares the safety profile of the newer, subcutaneous (SC) formulation of TCZ with the original intravenous (IV) formulation, in combination with traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in patients with RA. Several pivotal clinical trials are included, highlighting data from: i) trials of TCZ-IV; ii) trials of TCZ-SC; and iii) trials comparing IV to SC TCZ. TCZ use in pediatric populations is beyond the scope of this review.
Expert opinion: The efficacy and safety of TCZ-IV in the treatment of RA has been demonstrated in multiple clinical trials, both as monotherapy and in combination with traditional DMARDs. The data for TCZ-SC is similar, albeit with a higher frequency of injection site reactions (ISRs). With careful patient selection, the benefit: risk ratio is favorable, offering patients a rapid and sustained reduction in disease activity, improved function and reduced structural damage. Given that most patients prefer SC to IV medication, TCZ-SC will likely become a mainstay, along with other biologic agents, for the treatment of RA patients who have failed traditional non-biologic DMARDs.
Keywords: humanized anti-IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) antibody; immunotherapy; rheumatoid arthritis; safety; tocilizumab.