Intravenous pegylated liposomal prednisolone outperforms intramuscular methylprednisolone in treating rheumatoid arthritis flares: A randomized controlled clinical trial

Josbert M. Metselaar*, Leonie M. Middelink, Cornelis H. Wortel, Reinhard Bos, Jacob M. van Laar, Harald E. Vonkeman, Rene Westhovens, Twan Lammers, Siu Long Yao, Mudgal Kothekar, Atul Raut, Johannes W.J. Bijlsma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Glucocorticoids (GCs) are potent anti-inflammatory drugs but their use is limited by systemic exposure leading to toxicity. Targeted GC delivery to sites of inflammation via encapsulation in long-circulating liposomes may improve the therapeutic index. We performed a randomized, double-blind, active-controlled, multi-center study in which intravenously (i.v.) administered pegylated liposomal prednisolone sodium phosphate (Nanocort) was compared to equipotent intramuscular (i.m.) methylprednisolone acetate (Depo-Medrol®; i.e. a current standards-of-care for treating flares in rheumatoid arthritis patients). We enrolled 172 patients with active arthritis who met all eligibility criteria, eventually resulting in 150 patients randomized in three groups: (1) Nanocort 75 mg i.v. infusion plus i.m. saline injection; (2) Nanocort 150 mg i.v. infusion plus i.m. saline injection; and (3) Depo-Medrol® 120 mg i.m. injection plus i.v. saline infusion. Dosing in each group occurred at baseline and on day 15 (week 2). Study visits occurred at week 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 12, to assess both efficacy and safety. The primary endpoint was the “European League Against Rheumatism” (EULAR) responder rate at week 1. Safety was determined by the occurrence of adverse events during treatment and 12 weeks of follow-up. Treatment with Nanocort was found to be superior to Depo-Medrol® in terms of EULAR response at week 1, with p-values of 0.007 (good response) and 0.018 (moderate response). Treatments were well tolerated with a comparable pattern of adverse events in the three treatment groups. However, the Nanocort groups had a higher incidence of hypersensitivity reactions during liposome infusion. Our results show that liposomal Nanocort is more effective than Depo-Medrol® in treating patients with rheumatoid arthritis flares and has similar safety. This is the first clinical study in a large patient population showing that i.v. administered targeted drug delivery with a nanomedicine formulation improves the therapeutic index of glucocorticoids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-554
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of controlled release
Early online date10 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Enhanced permeability and retention
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Long-circulating liposomes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Targeted drug delivery
  • n/a OA procedure

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