Published: 2022-08-24

Tocilizumab induced immunosuppression in a case of adult-onset still’s disease: are these newer biologics double edged sword?

Hirva S. Santoki, Dhaiwat M. Shukla, Shikha V. Sood, Supriya D. Malhotra


Adult-onset still’s disease (AOSD) is a rare multisystemic inflammatory disorder of unknown etiology characterised by high spiking fever, evanescent skin rash, arthralgias, arthritis, neutrophilic leucocytosis. Initial treatment strategy includes use of hands-on drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, low dose corticosteroids, conventional DMARDs. But as the disease progresses to severe form, targeted and biologic DMARDs could be the option for management. Interleukin-6 being one among the many cytokines involved in the pathogenesis of AOSD, has made itself a target for the treatment of refractory cases. Tocilizumab, a recombinant humanized anti IL-6 monoclonal antibody, is one such biologic drug available in the market that has proven its therapeutic efficacy in several clinical trials. We are presenting a case of 37-year-old female patient, known case of AOSD for 4 years. Patient was initially maintained on low dose corticosteroid and conventional DMARD like hydroxychloroquine and methotrexate. Flare ups of the disease warranted the use of tocilizumab and tofacitinib in this patient. After clinical as well as pathological improvement with tocilizumab 2 years before, signs of immunosuppression were observed when tocilizumab was reintroduced for the treatment. Patient suffered from acute pyelonephritis, septicemia, shock, oropharyngeal candidiasis and bronchitis which could be owned to immunosuppressive action of tocilizumab. One can reduce the chances of infection and other adverse effects by careful periodic monitoring of various laboratory parameters like total W.B.C., total platelet count and liver enzymes. Cautious selection of the patient is needed for the treatment with newer biologic agents.


AOSD, Tocilizumab, Septicemia, Immunosuppression, Tofacitinib, Biologic DMARDs

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