We investigated the clinical efficacy and safety of tocilizumab (a humanized anti-IL-6 receptor antibody) monotherapy in active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients with an inadequate response to low dose methotrexate (MTX). In a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, 125 patients were allocated to receive either tocilizumab 8 mg/kg every 4 weeks plus MTX placebo (tocilizumab group) or tocilizumab placebo plus MTX 8 mg/week (control group) for 24 weeks. The clinical responses were measured using the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria and the Disease Activity Score in 28 joints. Serum vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels were also monitored. At week 24, 25.0% in the control group and 80.3% in the tocilizumab group achieved ACR20 response. The tocilizumab group showed superior ACR response criteria over control at all time points. Additionally, serum VEGF levels were significantly decreased by tocilizumab treatment. The overall incidences of adverse events (AEs) were 72 and 92% (serious AEs: 4.7 and 6.6%; serious infections: 1.6 and 3.3%) in the control and the tocilizumab groups, respectively. All serious adverse events improved by adequate treatment. Tocilizumab monotherapy was well tolerated and provided an excellent clinical benefit in active RA patients with an inadequate response to low dose MTX.
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