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What are the new drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Medically reviewed by Judith Stewart, BPharm. Last updated on Oct 7, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

The newest drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are the Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, which are FDA approved under the brand names Rinvoq, Olumiant, and Xeljanz.

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors work by blocking the activity of one or more of the Janus kinase enzymes (JAK1, JAK2, JAK3, TYK2) in the JAK-STAT signaling pathway, an intracellular pathway that plays a major role in the release of the pro-inflammatory cytokines that stimulate inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are part of a wider group of drugs called DMARDs (Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs). DMARDs work to slow the progression of joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis.

For more information on the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, see Rheumatoid Arthritis: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment Options

New Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis - Latest FDA Approvals

Drug Drug Class Administration Company FDA Approved for RA RA Indication Other Indications
upadacitinib (Rinvoq) Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor oral extended-release tablets
once daily
AbbVie Inc. 16-Aug-2019
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • inadequate response or intolerance to methotrexate
  • none
baricitinib (Olumiant) Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor oral tablets once daily Eli Lilly and Company 31-May-2018
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • inadequate response to one or more TNF antagonist therapies
  • none
sarilumab (Kevzara) interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist subcutaneous injection
every 2 weeks
Sanofi and Regeneron 22-May-2017
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • inadequate response or intolerance to one or more DMARDs
  • none
tofacitinib (Xeljanz XR) Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor oral extended-release tablets once daily Pfizer Inc. 23-Feb-2016
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • inadequate response or intolerance to methotrexate
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • ulcerative colitis
golimumab (Simponi Aria) tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker intravenous infusion at weeks 0 and 4, then every 8 weeks Janssen Biotech, Inc. 18-Jul-2013
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • in combination with methotrexate
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • ulcerative colitis
  • polyarticular course
    juvenile idiopathic arthritis
tofacitinib (Xeljanz) Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor oral tablets twice daily
Pfizer Inc. 6-Nov-2012
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • inadequate response or intolerance to methotrexate
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • ulcerative colitis
  • polyarticular course
    juvenile idiopathic arthritis
tocilizumab (Actemra) interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist intravenous infusion
every 4 weeks
subcutaneous injection
every 2 weeks, then every week
Genentech, Inc. 8-Jan-2010
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • inadequate response to one or more DMARDs
  • giant cell arteritis
  • polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • cytokine release syndrome
certolizumab pegol (Cimzia) tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker subcutaneous injection at weeks 0, 2, and 4, then every 2-4 weeks UCB, Inc. 13-May-2009
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • Crohn's disease
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis
  • plaque psoriasis
golimumab (Simponi) tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker subcutaneous injection
once a month
Janssen Biotech, Inc. 24-Apr-2009
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • in combination with methotrexate
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • ulcerative colitis
rituximab (Rituxan) CD20-directed cytolytic antibody intravenous infusion two infusions separated by 2 weeks (one course) every 24 weeks or based on clinical evaluation (not sooner than every 16 weeks) Genentech, Inc. 28-Feb-2006
  • moderately-to severely-active RA
  • in combination with methotrexate
  • inadequate response to one or more TNF antagonist therapies
  • non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  • pemphigus vulgaris
abatacept (Orencia) selective T cell costimulation modulator intravenous infusion at 0, 2 and 4 weeks, then every 4 weeks
subcutaneous injection
once weekly
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company 23-Dec-2005
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • psoriatic arthritis
adalimumab (Humira) tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker subcutaneous injection
every 2 weeks
AbbVie Inc. 31-Dec-2002
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • plaque psoriasis
  • hidradenitis suppurativa
  • uveitis
anakinra (Kineret) interleukin-1 receptor antagonist subcutaneous injection
once daily
Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB 14-Nov-2001
  • moderately to severely active RA in patients
  • inadequate response to one or more DMARDs
  • cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes
infliximab (Remicade) tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker intravenous infusion at 0, 2, and 6 weeks, then every 8 weeks Janssen Biotech, Inc. 10-Nov-1999
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • in combination with methotrexate
  • Crohn’s disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • plaque psoriasis
etanercept (Enbrel) tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker subcutaneous injection
once weekly
Immunex Corporation 2-Nov-1998
  • moderately to severely active RA
  • polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • plaque psoriasis
leflunomide (Arava) pyrimidine synthesis inhibitor oral tablets once daily sanofi-aventis U.S. LLC 10-Sep-1998
  • active rheumatoid arthritis
  • none

The biosimilars for the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers Humira, Remicade, and Enbrel are also FDA approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis:

Humira (adalimumab) Biosimilars

Remicade (infliximab) Biosimilars

Enbrel (etanercept) Biosimilars

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