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Immunology - Rheumatology

Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy and Safety of Existing TNF Blocking Agents in Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Author: Kalle J. Aaltonen et al.

by Kalle J. Aaltonen, Liisa M. Virkki, Antti Malmivaara, Yrjö T. Konttinen, Dan C. Nordström, Marja Blom

Background and Objectives

Five-tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-blockers (infliximab, etanercept, adalimumab, certolizumab pegol and golimumab) are available for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Only few clinical trials compare one TNF-blocker to another. Hence, a systematic review is required to indirectly compare the substances. The aim of our study is to estimate the efficacy and the safety of TNF-blockers in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and indirectly compare all five currently available blockers by combining the results from included randomized clinical trials (RCT).


A systematic literature review was conducted using databases including: MEDLINE, SCOPUS (including EMBASE), Cochrane library and electronic search alerts. Only articles reporting double-blind RCTs of TNF-blockers vs. placebo, with or without concomitant methotrexate (MTX), in treatment of RA were selected. Data collected were information of patients, interventions, controls, outcomes, study methods and eventual sources of bias.


Forty-one articles reporting on 26 RCTs were included in the systematic review and meta-analysis. Five RCTs studied infliximab, seven etanercept, eight adalimumab, three golimumab and three certolizumab. TNF-blockers were more efficacious than placebo at all time points but were comparable to MTX. TNF-blocker and MTX combination was superior to either MTX or TNF-blocker alone. Increasing doses did not improve the efficacy. TNF-blockers were relatively safe compared to either MTX or placebo.


No single substance clearly rose above others in efficacy, but the results of the safety analyses suggest that etanercept might be the safest alternative. Interestingly, MTX performs nearly identically considering both efficacy and safety aspects with a margin of costs.