J Korean Med Assoc.  2021 Feb;64(2):95-104. 10.5124/jkma.2021.64.2.95.

Biologic therapies for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

  • 1Department of Rheumatology, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that primarily affects the synovial joints. If left untreated, persistent synovial inflammation can lead to cartilage and bone destruction, ultimately causing significant longterm disability and mortality. However, since the late 1990s, the combined use of methotrexate, a synthetic diseasemodifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD), and a biological DMARD has revolutionized the treatment of RA. As of 2021, the Korea Food and Drug Administration has approved seven biological DMARDs for RA treatment: four tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors (infliximab, etanercept, adalimumab, and golimumab) and three non-tumor necrosis factor biological products (abatacept, rituximab, and tocilizumab). Although the use of biological products has allowed significant advances in the treatment of RA, there are certain drawbacks, such as high cost, increased infection risk, and the necessity for parenteral route product administration. Therefore, discontinuation of biological DMARD use without a resulting disease flare is the next treatment goal and a desirable result from the standpoint of risk reduction and cost-effectiveness, especially for patients with clinical remission. It is still unclear which biological product is the best. Clinicians must, therefore, personalize the sequence and strategy of treatment by considering patient characteristics, disease activity, comorbidity, and economic condition


Rheumatoid arthritis; Treatment; Biological products; Antirheumatic drugs; 류마티스관절염; 치료; 생물학적제제; 항류마티스약물
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