Tofacitinib -Risks and Benefits in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Previously Tofacitnib, an oral Janus kinase inhibitor, has shown promise as an emerging treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (Tofacitinib –a JAK Inhibitor for UC | gutsandgrowth).  So, a recent large study in tofacitinib use in rheumatoid arthritis caught my attention, specifically with regards to the potential risks of treatment (NEJM 2014; 370: 2377-86).

This double-blind study randomly assigned 958 patients (mean age ~49 years) to receive 5 mg or 10 mg of tofacitinib twice daily or weekly methotrexate.  This study, called ORAL Start, examined the effectiveness of these drugs over a 24 month period in patients with active moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis naive to therapeutic doses of methotrexate.

Key findings:

  • Among tofacitinib patients, 25.5% (5 mg group) and 37.7% (10 mg group) had an ACR 70 response at 6 months compared with 12.0% of methotrexate patients.  Results at 12 and 24 months were similar (Figure 1)
  • Adverse effects:
  1. 4% of tofacitinib patients developed herpes zoster compared with 1.1% of methotrexate patients
  2. 5 tofacitinib patients developed cases of cancer (three cases of lymphoma) compared with 1 case among patients receiving methotrexate
  3. Tofacitinib was associated with decreases in neutrophil/lymphoctye counts, increases in creatinine levels, increases in aminotransferases, and increases (16-22%) in LDL/HDL cholesterol levels
  4. Four deaths were noted among patients treated with tofacitinib compared with none in the methotrexate patients.

Related blog postSource Article: Methotrexate Safety | gutsandgrowth

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