Lege Artis Medicinae

[Combination of leflunomide and biologic agents in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis]

SZŰCS Gabriella

JULY 27, 2009

Lege Artis Medicinae - 2009;19(06-07)

[Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that leads to progressive joint destruction, functional disability and extra-articular complications. The initial approach to treatment of RA begins with the diagnosis, estimation of patient’s prognosis and the implementation of a therapeutic plan. Most important is early and aggressive treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Among the different protocols, combination therapies including methotrexate and/ or biologics seem to be more effective than monotherapies. Biological therapies introduced in recent years opened a new era in the treatment of RA. Randomized, controlled trials have demonstrated that the addition of methotrexate to biologic agents, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) inhibitors generally increases their ability to retard structural damage, reduce disease activity and improve function. However, not all patients tolerate or respond to methotrexate. One of the most common used alternative DMARDs is leflunomide. Earlier several smaller retrospective studies, later prospective cohort studies, and finally two new populationbased longitudinal observational studies found that the above-mentioned parameters in RA patients treated with anti-TNF agents and leflunomide were similar to those receiving anti-TNF and methotrexate in combination. In addition, there were no significant differences in the frequency of adverse events between the groups. Taken together, leflunomide should be regarded as an effective and safe alternative in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.]

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