Interleukin 6 receptor inhibition in primary Sjögren syndrome: a multicentre double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial

Ann Rheum Dis. 2021 Mar;80(3):329-338. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2020-218467. Epub 2020 Nov 18.


Objectives: No immunomodulatory drug has been approved for primary Sjögren's syndrome, a systemic autoimmune disease affecting 0.1% of the population. To demonstrate the efficacy of targeting interleukin 6 receptor in patients with Sjögren's syndrome-related systemic complications.

Methods: Multicentre double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial between 24 July 2013 and 16 July 2018, with a follow-up of 44 weeks, involving 17 referral centres. Inclusion criteria were primary Sjögren's syndrome according to American European Consensus Group criteria and score ≥5 for the EULAR Sjögren's Syndrome Disease activity Index (ESSDAI, score of systemic complications). Patients were randomised to receive either 6 monthly infusions of tocilizumab or placebo. The primary endpoint was response to treatment at week 24. Response to treatment was defined by the combination of (1) a decrease of at least 3 points in the ESSDAI, (2) no occurrence of moderate or severe activity in any new domain of the ESSDAI and (3) lack of worsening in physician's global assessment on a Visual Numeric Scale ≥1/10, all as compared with enrolment.

Results: 110 patients were randomised, 55 patients to tocilizumab (mean (SD) age: 50.9 (12.4) years; women: 98.2%) and 55 patients to placebo (54.8 (10.7) years; 90.9%). At 24 weeks, the proportion of patients meeting the primary endpoint was 52.7% (29/55) in the tocilizumab group and 63.6% (35/55) in the placebo group, for a difference of -11.4% (95% credible interval -30.6 to 9.0) (Pr[Toc >Pla]=0.14).

Conclusion: Among patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome, the use of tocilizumab did not improve systemic involvement and symptoms over 24 weeks of treatment compared with placebo.

Trial registration number: NCT01782235.

Keywords: Sjogren's syndrome; biological therapy; cytokines.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sjogren's Syndrome* / diagnosis


  • Receptors, Interleukin-6

Associated data