No difference in cardiovascular risk of tocilizumab versus abatacept for rheumatoid arthritis: A multi-database cohort study

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2018 Dec;48(3):399-405. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2018.03.012. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


Objectives: While tocilizumab may increase serum lipid levels, recent studies do not suggest a link between tocilizumab use and clinical cardiovascular risk in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: To compare cardiovascular safety of tocilizumab with abatacept, we conducted a cohort study using data from Medicare (2010-2013), IMS PharMetrics (2011-2014) and MarketScan (2011-6/2015). RA patients aged ≥18 years who newly started tocilizumab or abatacept entered the cohort on the day of their first use of tocilizumab or abatacept after a continuous enrollment period for ≥365 days. The primary outcome was a composite cardiovascular endpoint of hospitalization for myocardial infarction or stroke. To control for more than 60 confounders, tocilizumab starters were propensity score (PS)-matched to abatacept starters with a variable ratio of 1:3 within each database. A fixed-effects model combined database-specific hazard ratios (HR).

Results: We included 6237 tocilizumab starters PS-matched to 14,685 abatacept starters in all three databases. Mean age was 72 years in Medicare, 51 in PharMetrics and 53 in MarketScan. The incidence rate of the composite cardiovascular events per 100 person-years ranged from 0.37 (PharMetrics) to 1.64 (Medicare) in the tocilizumab group and from 0.59 (PharMetrics) to 1.69 (Medicare) in the abatacept group. The risk of the composite cardiovascular events was similar between the two groups across all three databases, with a combined HR of 0.82 (95% CI: 0.55-1.22) in tocilizumab versus abatacept starters.

Conclusions: This multi-database cohort study found no difference in the risk of cardiovascular events in RA patients who newly started tocilizumab versus abatacept.

Keywords: Abatacept; Biologic therapy; Cardiovascular disease; Rheumatoid arthritis; Tocilizumab.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abatacept / adverse effects*
  • Abatacept / therapeutic use
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Biological Products / adverse effects*
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / chemically induced
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology*
  • Stroke / chemically induced
  • Stroke / epidemiology*
  • United States


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Biological Products
  • Abatacept
  • tocilizumab