Treatment of polymyalgia rheumatica

Biochem Pharmacol. 2019 Jul:165:221-229. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2019.03.027. Epub 2019 Mar 20.


Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory disease characterized by bilateral pain involving predominantly the shoulders and proximal aspects of the arms and less commonly the neck and the pelvic girdle. This review discusses briefly the main epidemiological data and clinical features of this condition. Especial attention is paid in the management of the disease. For this reason, both the classic management and the impact of new therapies are discussed in depth. In general, patients with PMR experience a rapid response to 12.5-25 mg/prednisone/day in less than a week. Patients with poor response to glucocorticoids or with relapsing disease require other therapies aimed mainly to spare glucocorticoids. Among them, methotrexate is the most commonly used. Nevertheless, different studies indicate that this agent yields only a modest effect. Biologic therapies against the main cytokines involved in the pathogenesis of the disease have been used in refractory patients. However, randomized controlled trials do not support the use of anti-tumor necrosis factor agents in PMR. In contrast, several case series and retrospective studies highlight the efficacy of the anti-interleukin-6 receptor tocilizumab in PMR. Nonetheless, controlled trials are needed to fully establish the beneficial effect of this agent. The potential favorable effect of the Janus-kinase inhibitors and new anti-interleukin-6 antagonists remains to be determined.

Keywords: Anti-interleukin-6 receptor tocilizumab; Biologic therapies; DMARD; Glucocorticoids; Methotrexate; Polymyalgia rheumatic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Janus Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / complications
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / diagnosis
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / drug therapy*
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / etiology
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • Janus Kinases
  • Methotrexate