Rituximab done: what's next in rheumatoid arthritis? A European observational longitudinal study assessing the effectiveness of biologics after rituximab treatment in rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2016 Feb;55(2):230-6. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kev297. Epub 2015 Aug 27.


Objective: To compare the effectiveness of biologics after rituximab (RTX) treatment in RA.

Methods: The effectiveness of TNF-α inhibitors (TNFi), abatacept (ABA) or tocilizumab (TCZ) was examined in patients previously treated with RTX using clinical data collected in the Collaborative Registries for the Evaluation of Rituximab in RA Collaborative registry. Patients had stopped RTX 6 months or less prior to the new biologic and had a baseline visit within 21 days of starting the new biologic.

Results: Two hundred and sixty-five patients were analysed after 6 months of treatment. Patients on TCZ (n = 86) had a greater decline of DAS28-ESR and clinical disease activity index than patients on TNFi (n = 89) or ABA (n = 90). This effect was also seen after adjusting for baseline prednisone use and the number of previous biologics. The mean DAS28-ESR scores in patients on TCZ were 1.0 (95% CI: 0.2, 1.7) and 1.8 (95% CI: 1.0, 2.5) points lower than in patients on TNFi or ABA, respectively. In patients on TCZ, the clinical disease activity index was 9.4 (95% CI: 1.7, 16.1) and 8.1 (95% CI: 0.9, 15.3) points lower than on TNFi and ABA, respectively. Patients on TCZ more frequently had good EULAR responses than patients on TNFi or ABA (66 vs 31 vs 14%, P < 0.001). The HAQ disability index improved in all treatment groups (P < 0.001), but did not differ between biologics, as did drug retention rates. The reasons for discontinuation of RTX and the number of previous biologics had no influence on outcomes.

Conclusion: In this observational cohort of patients who discontinued RTX, TCZ provided a better control of RA than ABA or TNFi.

Keywords: biologic drugs; disease activity; rheumatoid arthritis; rituximab; tocilizumab.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Disease Progression
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries*
  • Rituximab / therapeutic use*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Rituximab