Tocilizumab discontinuation after attaining remission in patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were treated with tocilizumab alone or in combination with methotrexate: results from a prospective randomised controlled study (the second year of the SURPRISE study)

Ann Rheum Dis. 2018 Sep;77(9):1268-1275. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2018-213416. Epub 2018 May 31.


Objective: To evaluate the sustained remission and low disease activity after discontinuation of tocilizumab in patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were treated with tocilizumab alone or in combination with methotrexate.

Methods: The SURPRISE study was a 2-year, open-label randomised controlled study. Among patients who had been randomised to additional tocilizumab (ADD-ON) or switch to tocilizumab (SWITCH) in the first year, those who achieved remission based on the disease activity score for 28 joints (DAS28-ESR<2.6) discontinued tocilizumab at week 52 and were observed for the following 52 weeks. The endpoint of the second year included tocilizumab-free remission and low disease-activity rates, functional outcome, radiological outcomes assessed with the modified total Sharp score (mTSS) and safety. The efficacy of reinstituted tocilizumab/methotrexate was also evaluated.

Results: A total of 105 patients who achieved remission at week 52 discontinued tocilizumab; 51 in ADD-ON continued methotrexate and 54 in SWITCH received no disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. Sustained DAS28 low disease-activity rates were significantly higher in ADD-ON than in SWITCH (55%vs27%, p=0.005). Sustained remission rates at week 104 were 24% for ADD-ON and 14% for SWITCH (p=0.29). Radiological progression was comparable between both groups (mTSS; 0.37vs0.64, p=0.36). The restart of tocilizumab induced remission in all except two patients after 36 weeks, irrespective of concomitant methotrexate.

Conclusion: Sustained low disease activity after tocilizumab discontinuation could be maintained with continued methotrexate in more than half of the patients. Retreatment with tocilizumab led to remission in more than 90% of patients.

Trial registration number: NCT01120366; Results.

Keywords: dmards (biologic); methotrexate; rheumatoid arthritis.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Drug Substitution
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / adverse effects
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Remission Induction
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • tocilizumab
  • Methotrexate

Associated data