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Stone, J. H.; Tuckwell, K.; Dimonaco, S.; Klaerman, M.; Aringer, M.; Blockmans, D.; Brouwer, E.; Cid, M. C.; Dasgupta, B.; Rech, J.; Salvarani, C.; Schett, G.; Schulze-Koops, H.; Spiera, R.; Unizony, S. H.; Collinson, N. (2017): Trial of Tocilizumab in Giant-Cell Arteritis. In: New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 377, No. 4: pp. 317-328
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Abstract

BACKGROUND Giant-cell arteritis commonly relapses when glucocorticoids are tapered, and the prolonged use of glucocorticoids is associated with side effects. The effect of the interleukin-6 receptor alpha inhibitor tocilizumab on the rates of relapse during glucocorticoid tapering was studied in patients with giant-cell arteritis. METHODS In this 1-year trial, we randomly assigned 251 patients, in a 2: 1: 1: 1 ratio, to receive subcutaneous tocilizumab (at a dose of 162 mg) weekly or every other week, combined with a 26-week prednisone taper, or placebo combined with a prednisone taper over a period of either 26 weeks or 52 weeks. The primary outcome was the rate of sustained glucocorticoid-free remission at week 52 in each tocilizumab group as compared with the rate in the placebo group that underwent the 26-week prednisone taper. The key secondary outcome was the rate of remission in each tocilizumab group as compared with the placebo group that underwent the 52-week prednisone taper. Dosing of prednisone and safety were also assessed. RESULTS Sustained remission at week 52 occurred in 56% of the patients treated with tocilizumab weekly and in 53% of those treated with tocilizumab every other week, as compared with 14% of those in the placebo group that underwent the 26-week prednisone taper and 18% of those in the placebo group that underwent the 52-week prednisone taper (P<0.001 for the comparisons of either active treatment with placebo). The cumulative median prednisone dose over the 52-week period was 1862 mg in each tocilizumab group, as compared with 3296 mg in the placebo group that underwent the 26-week taper (P<0.001 for both comparisons) and 3818 mg in the placebo group that underwent the 52-week taper (P<0.001 for both comparisons). Serious adverse events occurred in 15% of the patients in the group that received tocilizumab weekly, 14% of those in the group that received tocilizumab every other week, 22% of those in the placebo group that underwent the 26-week taper, and 25% of those in the placebo group that underwent the 52-week taper. Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy developed in one patient in the group that received tocilizumab every other week. CONCLUSIONS Tocilizumab, received weekly or every other week, combined with a 26-week prednisone taper was superior to either 26-week or 52-week prednisone tapering plus placebo with regard to sustained glucocorticoid-free remission in patients with giant-cell arteritis. Longer follow-up is necessary to determine the durability of remission and safety of tocilizumab.