Olokizumab, a new drug for managing rheumatoid arthritis

Despite the recent therapeutic advances, nearly 25% of patients are refractory to the treatment regimens. The findings of an international multi-centre study led by MedUni Vienna, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, have reported olokizumab as a newer treatment option with promising results for the management of RA.

Olokizumab, the humanized monoclonal antibody, is the first direct inhibitor of interleukin-6. The 24-week, phase 3, multicenter, placebo- and active-controlled trial randomized 464 patients to receive olokizumab every 2 weeks, 479 to receive olokizumab every 4 weeks, 462 to receive adalimumab, and 243 to receive placebo. The corresponding ACR20 response at week 12 noted in patients receiving placebo, olokizumab every 2 weeks, olokizumab every 4 weeks and adalimumab were 44.4%, 70.3%, 71.4%, and 66.9%. The researchers have also noted that both the olokizumab doses were noninferior to adalimumab in terms of the percentage of patients with an ACR20 response at week 12.  Infections were the common adverse events noted and they occurred in approximately 70% of the patients who received olokizumab.

According to the study lead, Josef Smolen from the Division of Rheumatology within the Department of Medicine III at MedUni Vienna and University Hospital Vienna. The new drug would be beneficial to patients refractory to methotrexate to achieve low disease activity. The researchers noted that the treatment helped in achieving remission in 1 out of 8 patients.

Olokizumab, the newer addition to the treatment armamentarium will significantly expand the range of treatment options available for RA. However, larger randomized clinical trials are warranted to corroborate its long-term efficacy and safety in RA patients.


Smolen JS, Feist E, Fatenejad S, et al. Olokizumab versus Placebo or Adalimumab in Rheumatoid Arthritis. N Engl J Med. 2022;387(8):715-726.