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Oxford University Press, Rheumatology, 11(60), p. 5318-5328, 2021

DOI: 10.1093/rheumatology/keab153



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Rituximab plus leflunomide in rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized, placebo-controlled, investigator-initiated clinical trial (AMARA study)

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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Abstract Objective To investigate the efficacy and safety of rituximab + LEF in patients with RA. Methods In this investigator-initiated, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial, patients with an inadequate response to LEF who had failed one or more DMARD were randomly assigned 2:1 to i.v. rituximab 1000 mg or placebo on day 1 and 15 plus ongoing oral LEF. The primary efficacy outcome was the difference between ≥50% improvement in ACR criteria (ACR50 response) rates at week 24 (P ≤ 0.025). Secondary endpoints included ACR20/70 responses, ACR50 responses at earlier timepoints and adverse event (AE) rates. The planned sample size was not achieved due to events beyond the investigators’ control. Results Between 13 August 2010 and 28 January 2015, 140 patients received rituximab (n = 93) or placebo (n = 47) plus ongoing LEF. Rituximab + LEF resulted in an increase in the ACR50 response rate that was significant at week 16 (32 vs 15%; P = 0.020), but not week 24 (27 vs 15%; P = 0.081), the primary endpoint. Significant differences favouring the rituximab + LEF arm were observed in some secondary endpoints, including ACR20 rates from weeks 12 to 24. The rituximab and placebo arms had similar AE rates (71 vs 70%), but the rituximab arm had a higher rate of serious AEs (SAEs 20 vs 2%), primarily infections and musculoskeletal disorders. Conclusion The primary endpoint was not reached, but rituximab + LEF demonstrated clinical benefits vs LEF in secondary endpoints. Although generally well tolerated, the combination was associated with additional SAEs and requires monitoring. Trial registration EudraCT: 2009-015950-39; NCT01244958.