Rilonacept (Arcalyst)

Number: 0770


Aetna considers rilonacept (Arcalyst) for the treatment of cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes (CAPS) medically necessary when all of the following criteria are met:

  • The member has genetic evidence of an CIAS1 (NLRP3) mutation based on DNA sequencing, and has classic signs and symptoms of familial cold autoinflammatory syndrome (FCAS) (recurrent, intermittent fever and rash that were often exacerbated by exposure to generalized cool ambient temperature [natural, artificial, or both]), or Muckle-Wells syndrome (MWS) (chronic fever and rash of waxing and waning intensity, sometimes exacerbated by exposure to generalized cool ambient temperature); and
  • The member is 12 years of age or older; and
  • There is clinical documentation of functional impairment resulting in limitations of activities of daily living; and
  • The member is not using a tumor necrosis factor blocking agent (e.g., adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab) or anakinra; and
  • The member does not have active or chronic infections including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus, or tuberculosis.

Aetna considers rilonacept experimental and investigational for all other indications including the following (not an all-inclusive list) because its effectiveness for these indications has not been established:

  • Adult-onset Still's disease
  • Chronic kidney disease-mineral and bone disorder
  • Familial Mediterranean fever
  • Gout/gouty arthritis
  • Heart failure
  • Inflammatory dermatosis
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • Neonatal-onset multi-systemic inflammatory disease
  • Schnitzler syndrome
  • Subacromial bursitis
  • Type-1 diabetes mellitus.

For anakinra for neonatal-onset multisystem inflammatory disease (NOMID), see CPB 0595 - Kineret (Anakinra).  For canakinumab (Ilaris), see CPB 0881 - Canakinumab (Ilaris).


Cryopyrinopathies, a group of rare autoinflammatory syndromes, are a distinct class of hereditary disorders of cytokine dysregulation with significant cutaneous features.  They include familial cold autoinflammatory syndrome (FCAS), Muckle-Wells syndrome (MWS) and neonatal-onset multisystemic inflammatory disease (NOMID).  These syndromes were initially thought to be distinct disease entities despite some clinical similarities.  However, mutations of the same gene have since been found in all three cryopyrinopathies.  Thus, these diseases are not separate, but represent a continuum of phenotypes with FCAS being the mildest and NOMID being the most severe phenotype.  The gene in question, NLRP3 (nucleotide-binding domain, leucine rich family, pyrin domain containing, also known as CIAS1 and NALP3), encodes cryopyrin, which has led to the adoption of the term cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes (CAPS) for this group of diseases.  Cryopyrin is an important mediator of inflammation and interleukin 1beta (IL-1b) processing.  Interleukin-1 acts as a messenger for the regulation of inflammatory responses, but in excess it can be harmful and has been shown to be key in the inflammation observed in patients with CAPS (Sinkai et al, 2008; Neven et al, 2008).

Cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes are usually caused by autosomal-dominant mutations in the CIAS1 gene with male and female offspring equally affected.  The FCAS and MWS disorders affect approximately 300 individuals in the United States.  Fifty percent of CAPS cases are associated with a gene mutation in the CIAS1 gene.  The incidence of CAPS is about 1 in 1,000,000 people in the United States.  Patients with CAPS are characterized by life-long, recurrent symptoms such as arthralgia, conjunctivitis, fatigue, fever/chills, myalgias, and urticaria-like rash, and with potential for developing end-organ damage due to chronic inflammation.  Intermittent, disruptive exacerbations or flares can be triggered at any time by exposure to stress, exercise, cooling temperatures, or other unknown stimuli.  Moreover, patients with MWS are associated with more severe inflammation and may include hearing loss or deafness.  In addition, some MWS patients may be afflicted with amyloidosis.

Attempts to treat CAPS with anti-inflammatory drugs or immunosuppressants have generally been disappointing.  As a result, there is a need for novel therapies.  Rilonacept (also known as IL-1 trap), an Interleukin-1 (IL-1) blocker, is an engineered dimeric fusion protein consisting of the ligand-binding domains of the extracellular portions of the human IL-1 receptor component (and IL-1 receptor accessory protein linked in-line to the Fc portion of human immunoglobulin G1. Rilonacept binds interleukin (IL)‐1 beta and thus, prevents IL‐1 from binding with IL‐1 cell surface receptors and thus, interrupts IL‐1 beta signaling. Rilonacept also binds IL‐1alpha and IL‐1 receptor antagonist but with reduced affinity. This "cytokine trap" blocks IL-1 signaling by acting as a soluble decoy receptor that binds to IL-1, thus preventing its interaction with cell-surface receptors.

Arcalyst (rilonacept) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of Cryopyrin‐Associated Periodic Syndromes (CAPS), including Familial Cold Auto‐inflammatory Syndrome (FCAS) and Muckle‐Wells Syndrome (MWS) in adults and children 12 years and older. Rilonacept is not indicated for use in, and has not been studied in, persons with Neonatal‐Onset Multisystem Inflammatory Disease (NOMID).

Hoffman et al (2004) developed an experimental cold challenge protocol to 
  1. examine the acute inflammatory mechanisms occurring after a general cold exposure in FCAS patients, and 
  2. investigate the effects of pre-treatment with an antagonist of IL-1 receptor (IL-1Ra). 
Real-time PCR, ELISA, and immunohistochemistry were used to measure cytokine responses.  After cold challenge, untreated patients with FCAS developed rash, fever, and arthralgias within 1 to 4 hours.  Significant increases in serum concentrations of IL-6 and white-blood-cell (WBC) counts were seen 4 to 8 hours after cold challenge.  Serum concentrations of IL-1 and cytokine mRNA in peripheral-blood leucocytes were not raised, but amounts of IL-1 protein and mRNA were high in affected skin.  Administration of IL-1Ra before cold challenge blocked symptoms and increases in WBC counts and serum IL-6.  The ability of IL-1Ra to prevent the clinical features and hematological and biochemical changes in patients with FCAS indicated a central role for IL-1b in this disorder.  Involvement of cryopyrin in activation of caspase 1 and NF-kappaB signaling suggested that it might have a role in many chronic inflammatory diseases.  The authors stated that these findings support a new therapy for a disorder with no previously known acceptable treatment. 

In a pilot study, Goldbach-Mansky and colleagues (2008) assessed the safety and effectiveness of rilonacept in patients with FCAS.  A total of 5 patients were studied in an open-label trial.  All patients received an initial loading dose of 300 mg of rilonacept by subcutaneous injection, were evaluated 6 and 10 days later for clinical effectiveness, and remained off treatment until a clinical flare occurred.  At the time of flare, patients were again treated with 300 mg of rilonacept and then given maintenance doses of 100 mg/week.  Patients whose FCAS was not completely controlled were allowed a dosage increase to 160 mg/week and then further to 320 mg/week during an intra-patient dosage-escalation phase.  Safety, disease activity measures (daily diary reports of rash, joint pain and/or swelling, and fever), health quality measures (Short Form 36 health survey questionnaire), and serum markers of inflammation such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), serum amyloid A (SAA), and IL-6 were determined at 3, 6, 9, 12, and 24 months after initiation of rilonacept and were compared with baseline values.  In all patients, clinical symptoms (e.g., rash, fever, and joint pain/swelling) typically induced by cold improved within days of rilonacept administration.  Serum markers of inflammation (ESR, hsCRP, and SAA) showed statistically significant reductions (p < 0.01, p < 0.001, and p < 0.001, respectively) at doses of 100 mg.  Dosage escalation to 160 mg and 320 mg resulted in subjectively better control of the rash and joint pain.  Furthermore, levels of the acute-phase reactants ESR, hsCRP, and SAA were lower at the higher doses; the difference was statistically significant only for the ESR.  All patients continued taking the study drug, which was well-tolerated.  Weight gain in 2 patients was noted.  No study drug-related serious adverse events were seen.  The authors concluded that this study presented 2-year safety and effectiveness data on rilonacept treatment in 5 patients with FCAS.  The dramatic improvement in clinical and laboratory measures of inflammation, the sustained response, and the good tolerability suggested that this drug may be a promising therapeutic option in patients with FCAS, and the data led to the design of a phase III study in this patient population.

In February 2008, rilonacept (Arcalyst) received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  It is indicated for the treatment of CAPS, including FCAS and MWS in adults as well as children aged 12 years and older.  However, rilonacept has not been studied in patients with NOMID.  The most commonly reported side effects associated with use of rilonacept were injection-site reactions and upper respiratory tract infections.

The FDA's approval of Arcalyst was based on a phase III clinical trial by Hoffman and colleagues (2008).  A total of 47 adult patients with CAPS, as defined by mutations in the causative NLRP3 (CIAS1) gene and pathognomonic symptoms, were enrolled in 2 consecutive studies.  Study 1 entailed a 6-week randomized double-blind comparison of weekly subcutaneous injections of rilonacept (160 mg) versus placebo.  Study 2 consisted of a 9-week single-blind treatment with rilonacept (part A), followed by a 9-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled withdrawal procedure (part B).  Primary effectiveness was evaluated using a validated composite key symptom score.  A total of 44 patients completed both studies.  In Study 1, rilonacept therapy reduced the group mean composite symptom score by 84 %, compared with 13 % with placebo therapy (primary end point; p < 0.0001 versus placebo).  Rilonacept also significantly improved all other effectiveness end points in Study 1 (numbers of multi-symptom and single-symptom disease flare days, single-symptom scores, physician's and patient's global assessments of disease activity, limitations in daily activities, as well as hsCRP and SAA levels).  In Study 2-part B, rilonacept was superior to placebo for maintaining the improvements seen with rilonacept therapy, as shown by all effectiveness parameters (primary end point; p < 0.0001 versus placebo).  Rilonacept was generally well-tolerated.  The authors concluded that treatment with weekly rilonacept provided marked and lasting improvement in the clinical signs and symptoms of CAPS, and normalized the levels of SAA from those associated with risk of developing amyloidosis.  Rilonacept exhibited a generally favorable safety and tolerability profile.

The FDA-approved labeling states that treatment with rilonacept should not be initiated in persons with active or chronic infections, including tuberculosis (TB), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. The labeling states that taking rilonacept with tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors is not recommended because this may increase the risk of serious infections.

In a pilot study, Terkeltaub et al (2009) explored the potential utility of rilonacept in patients with chronic active gouty arthritis.  This 14-week, multi-center, non-randomized, single-blind, mono-sequence cross-over study of 10 patients included a placebo run-in (2 weeks), active rilonacept treatment (6 weeks) and a 6-week post-treatment follow-up.  Rilonacept was generally well-tolerated.  No deaths and no serious adverse events occurred during the study.  One patient withdrew owing to an injection-site reaction.  Patients' self-reported median pain visual analog scale scores significantly decreased from week 2 (after the placebo run-in) to week 4 (2 weeks of rilonacept) (5.0 to 2.8; p < 0.049), with sustained improvement at week 8 (1.3; p < 0.049); 5 of 10 patients reported at least a 75 % improvement.  Median symptom-adjusted and severity-adjusted joint scores were significantly decreased; and hsCRP levels fell significantly.  The authors concluded that this proof-of-concept study demonstrated that rilonacept is generally well-tolerated and may offer therapeutic benefit in reducing pain in patients with chronic refractory gouty arthritis, supporting the need for larger, randomized, controlled studies of IL-1 antagonism such as with rilonacept for this clinical indication.

McDermott (2009) stated that rilonacept is a long-acting IL-1 blocker developed by Regeneron.  Initially, Regeneron entered into a joint development effort with Novartis to develop rilonacept for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) but this was discontinued following the review of phase II clinical data showing that IL-1 blockade appeared to have limited benefit in RA.  In February 2008, Regeneron received Orphan Drug approval from the FDA for rilonacept in the treatment of 2 CAPS disorders -- FCAS and MWS -- for children and adults 12 years and older.  Cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes are a group of inherited inflammatory disorders consisting of FCAS, MWS, NOMID, also known as chronic infantile neurologic, cutaneous and articular (CINCA) syndrome, all associated with heterozygous mutations in the NLRP3 (CIAS1) gene, which encodes the protein NLRP3 or cryopyrin.  Prior to the discovery of the NLRP3 (CIAS1) mutations and the advent of IL-1-targeted therapy, treatment was aimed at suppressing inflammation but with limited success.  The dramatic success of selective blockade of IL-1beta, initially with the IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra; anakinra), not only provided supportive evidence for the role of IL-1beta in CAPS but also demonstrated the effectiveness of targeting IL-1beta for treatment of these conditions.  Rilonacept was developed by Regeneron; its longer half-life offers potential alternatives to patients who do not tolerate daily injections very well or have difficulty with drug compliance.  The initial evidence for the beneficial effects of rilonacept for MWS and FCAS suggests that it would also be a suitable treatment for CNICA/NOMID.  It is yet to be determined if rilonacept would be an effective treatment for other chronic inflammatory conditions such as gout, familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

In a randomized, double-blind, single-participant alternating treatment study, Hashkes et al (2012) evaluated the safety and effectiveness of rilonacept in treating patients with colchicine-resistant or -intolerant FMF.  Patients with FMF aged 4 years or older with 1 or more attacks per month were included in this study.  Subjects received 1 of 4 treatment sequences that each included two 3-month courses of rilonacept, 2.2 mg/kg (maximum, 160 mg) by weekly subcutaneous injection, and two 3-month courses of placebo.  Outcome measures included differences in the frequency of FMF attacks and adverse events between rilonacept and placebo.  A total of 8 males and 6 females with a mean age of 24.4 years (standard deviation [SD], 11.8) were randomly assigned.  Among 12 participants who completed 2 or more treatment courses, the rilonacept-placebo attack risk ratio was 0.59 (SD, 0.12) (equal-tail 95 % confidence interval [CI]: 0.39 to 0.85).  The median number of attacks per month was 0.77 (0.18 and 1.20 attacks in the first and third quartiles, respectively) with rilonacept versus 2.00 (0.90 and 2.40, respectively) with placebo (median difference, -1.74 [95 % CI: -3.4 to -0.1]; p = 0.027).  There were more treatment courses of rilonacept without attacks (29 % versus 0 %; p = 0.004) and with a decrease in attacks of greater than 50 % compared with the baseline rate during screening (75 % versus 35 %; p = 0.006) than with placebo.  However, the duration of attacks did not differ between placebo and rilonacept (median difference, 1.2 days [-0.5 and 2.4 days in the first and third quartiles, respectively]; p = 0.32).  Injection site reactions were more frequent with rilonacept (median difference, 0 events per patient treatment month [medians of -4 and 0 in the first and third quartiles, respectively]; p = 0.047), but no differences were seen in other adverse events.  The authors concluded that rilonacept reduced the frequency of FMF attacks and seems to be a treatment option for patients with colchicine-resistant or -intolerant FMF.  Drawbacks of this study included small sample size, heterogeneity of FMF mutations, age, and participant indication (colchicine resistance or intolerance).  Moreover, these investigators noted that the duration of the trial and small sample size preclude the long-term assessment of safety and effectiveness.  They stated that future larger studies in regions endemic to FMF with more homogenous populations and limited to patients with 2 classic mutations may give a more precise assessment of the effect of IL-1 inhibition.

Akgul et al (2013) performed a systematic review to analyze patients with FMF, including juvenile patients who received treatment with biologics.  A MEDLINE search, including articles published in English language between 1990 and May 2012, was performed.  Patients who had Mediterranean fever variants but could not be classified as FMF according to Tel-Hashomer criteria were excluded.  There is no controlled trial on the safety and effectiveness of biologics in FMF.  A total of 59 (32 females and 27 males) patients with FMF who had been treated with biologics (infliximab, etanercept, adalimumab, anakinra, and canakinumab) were reported in 24 single reports and 7 case series.  There were 16 children and 43 adults (7- to 68-year olds).  Five patients were reported to have colchicine intolerance or had adverse events related to colchicine use, and the rest 54 were unresponsive to colchicine treatment.  The authors concluded that the current data are limited to case reports, and it is difficult to obtain a quantitative evaluation of response to biologic treatments.  However, on the basis of reported cases, biologic agents seem to be an alternative treatment for patients with FMF who are unresponsive or intolerant to colchicine therapy and seem to be safe.  Moreover, they stated that controlled studies are needed to better evaluate the safety and effectiveness of biologics in the treatment of patients with FMF.

Sundy (2010) discussed approved and emerging drugs used to treat hyperuricemia or the clinical manifestations of gout.  Results of several clinical trials provided new data on the safety and effectiveness of the approved urate-lowering drugs, allopurinol and febuxostat.  New recommendations have been presented on appropriate dosing of colchicine for acute gout flares and potential toxicities of combining colchicine with medications such as clarithromycin.  Emerging therapies, including pegloticase, the uricosuric agent RDEA596, and the IL-1 inhibitors, rilonacept and canakinumab, have shown promise in early and late phase clinical trials.  The author concluded that recent publications demonstrate an opportunity to use existing gout therapies more effectively in order to improve both safety and efefctiveness.  Emerging therapies for gout show promise for unmet needs in selected gout populations.

In a randomized, controlled clinical trial, Terkeltaub et al (2013) evaluated rilonacept added to a standard-of-care, indomethacin, for treatment of acute gout flares.  Adults, aged 18 to 70 years, with gout presenting within 48 hours of flare onset and having at least moderate pain as well as swelling and tenderness in the index joint were randomized to subcutaneous (SC) rilonacept 320 mg at baseline plus oral indomethacin 50 mg TID for 3 days followed by 25 mg TID for up to 9 days (n = 74); SC placebo at baseline plus oral indomethacin as above (n = 76); or SC rilonacept 320 mg at baseline plus oral placebo (n = 75).  The primary efficacy end-point was change in pain in the index joint (patient-reported using a Likert scale (0 = none; 4 = extreme)) from baseline to the average of values at 24, 48 and 72 hours (composite time point) for rilonacept plus indomethacin versus indomethacin alone.  Comparison of rilonacept monotherapy with indomethacin monotherapy was dependent on demonstration of significance for the primary end-point.  Safety evaluation included clinical laboratory and adverse event (AE) assessments.  Patient characteristics were comparable among the groups; the population was predominantly male (94.1 %), white (75.7 %), with mean ± SD age of 50.3 ± 10.6 years.  All treatment groups reported within-group pain reductions from baseline (p < 0.0001).  Although primary end-point pain reduction was greater with rilonacept plus indomethacin (-1.55 ± 0.92) relative to indomethacin alone (-1.40 ± 0.96), the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.33), so formal comparison between monotherapy groups was not performed.  Pain reduction over the 72-hour period with rilonacept alone (-0.69 ± 0.97) was less than that in the other groups, but pain reduction was similar among groups at 72 hours.  Treatment with rilonacept was well-tolerated with no reported serious AEs related to rilonacept.  Across all groups, the most frequent AEs were headache and dizziness.  The authors concluded that although generally well-tolerated, rilonacept in combination with indomethacin and rilonacept alone did not provide additional pain relief over 72 hours relative to indomethacin alone in patients with acute gout flare.

Breda and colleagues (2011) stated that advances in understanding the pathogenesis of rheumatic diseases have led to the discovery of mechanisms of inflammation and autoimmunity and have made possible the invention of new target-specific drugs.  Biologic drugs, designed to inhibit specific components of the immune system, such as cytokines, cytokine gene expression, and their complex interactions, have revolutionized the treatment options in pediatric rheumatology.  Only 3 agents are currently available for treating JIA:
  1. etanercept, at the dose of 0.8 mg/kg once-weekly,
  2. adalimumab at the dose of 24 mg/m(2) every 2 weeks, and
  3. abatacept at the dose of 10 mg/kg at weeks 0, 2, 4, and then every 4 weeks. 
They are well-tolerated and relatively safe in children.  Side effects are generally mild and include injection site reactions and infections. Infliximab, rilonacept, and canakinumab are also approved by the FDA for treatment of pediatric autoimmune disorders and are currently investigated in JIA.
Dinarello and colleagues (2012) noted that monotherapy blocking IL-1 activity in autoinflammatory syndromes results in a rapid and sustained reduction in disease severity, including reversal of inflammation-mediated loss of sight, hearing and organ function.  This approach can therefore be effective in treating common conditions such as post-myocardial infarction (MI) heart failure, and trials targeting a broad spectrum of new indications are underway.  So far, 3 IL-1-targeted agents have been approved:
  1. the IL-1 receptor antagonist anakinra,
  2. the soluble decoy receptor rilonacept, and
  3. the neutralizing monoclonal anti-IL-1β antibody canakinumab. 
In addition, a monoclonal antibody directed against the IL-1 receptor and a neutralizing anti-IL-1α antibody are in clinical trials.

Abbate et al (2012) stated that the inflammatory hypothesis of atherosclerosis postulates that inflammation within the plaque promotes plaque progression and complications.  Interleukin-1 is a key pro-inflammatory cytokine responsible for the amplification of the inflammatory response following injury.  Animal studies show that IL-1 blockade is effective in limiting atherosclerosis and atherothrombosis and improving outcomes in acute MI and ischemic stroke.  Preliminary data in patients with acute MI, ischemic stroke, and heart failure are promising.  A large secondary prevention trial with canakinumab in patients with prior acute MI is currently ongoing.  The authors noted that many unanswered questions remain regarding the optimal use of IL-1 blockade and the preferred agent.

Lipsker and Lenormand (2012) stated that anecdotal observations suggested that IL-1 antagonists may be effective for the treatment of patients with different types of inflammatory dermatological diseases.  These investigators reviewed the current evidence on the use of IL-1 antagonists in dermatology.  A Medline search was performed combining the keywords: "anakinra; canakinumab; rilonacept" and "skin; neutrophilic dermatoses; Sweet syndrome; pyoderma gangrenosum; hidradenitis suppurativa; Schnitzler syndrome; Still disease".  The precise dermatological phenotype of patients with IL-1 antagonist-responsive auto-inflammatory disorders was analysed in order to compare it to related complex disorders.  Double-blind randomized controlled trials have demonstrated the efficacy of these treatments in cryopyrinopathies with dermatological involvement including chronic infantile neurological cutaneous and articular (CINCA) syndrome, Muckle-Wells syndrome and familial cold urticaria.  Anakinra is the only treatment for Schnitzler syndrome that is almost constantly efficacious, even in refractory disease, as attested by numerous case reports.  It is also efficacious in the treatment of patients with adult-onset Still disease and systemic juvenile arthritis.  Neutrophilic dermatoses constitute the cutaneous hallmark of IL-1-responsive auto-inflammatory disorders, and neutrophilic dermatoses could thus form an indication for this treatment.  However, to-date, only 9 reports have been published showing efficiency in patients with Sweet syndrome, in 1 case of neutrophilic panniculitis, and in 2 cases of pustular psoriasis.  Anakinra appears less efficacious in patients with pyoderma gangrenosum.  The authors concluded that IL-1 antagonists are a first-line treatment in patients with Schnitzler syndrome and cryopyrinopathies.  They could become important alternatives in patients with acute and febrile neutrophilic dermatoses either unresponsive to or with contraindications to conventional treatments, but this requires confirmation by further clinical trials.

In a prospective, single-center, open-label study, Krause et al (2012) evaluated the effects of rilonacept on the clinical signs and symptoms of Schnitzler syndrome (SchS).  A total of 8 patients with SchS were included in this study.  After a 3-week baseline, patients received a subcutaneous loading dose (300-mg) of rilonacept followed by weekly subcutaneous doses of 160-mg for up to 1 year.  Efficacy was determined by patient-based daily health assessment forms, physician's global assessment (PGA), and measurement of inflammatory markers including CRP, SAA, and S100 calcium-binding protein A12 (S100A12).  Treatment with rilonacept resulted in a rapid clinical response as demonstrated by significant reductions in daily health assessment scores and PGA scores compared with baseline levels (p < 0.05).  These effects, which were accompanied by reductions in CRP and SAA, continued over the treatment duration.  Rilonacept treatment was well-tolerated.  There were no treatment-related severe adverse events and no clinically significant changes in laboratory safety parameters.  The authors concluded that rilonacept was effective and well- tolerated in patients with SchS and may represent a promising potential therapeutic option.

Giampietro and Fautrel (2012) stated that  IL-1β is emerging as a master mediator of adult-onset Still's disease (AOSD) pathogenesis.  This pleiotropic cytokine has a wide type of effects.  As a key mediator of innate immunity, it is a potent pyrogen and facilitates neutrophilic proliferation and diapedesis into the inflamed tissues, which are key AOSD manifestations.  The study of pro-inflammatory cytokines profiles in sera and pathological tissues of AOSD patients has shown elevated levels of IL-1β, these levels being highly correlated with disease activity and severity.  These experimental evidences as well as the analogy with other auto-inflammatory diseases that share with AOSD clinical and biological characteristics have suggested the blockade of IL-1β as a possible new therapeutic option for the AOSD, especially in conventional therapy resistant cases.  Anakinra, the first anti-IL-1 agent put on the market, has demonstrated capable to induce a rapid response sustained over time, especially in systemic forms, where anti-TNFα failed to control symptoms.  While a growing number of evidences supports the utilization of anakinra in AOSD, a new generation of anti-IL1β antagonists is developing.  Canakinumab and rilonacept could improve the management of this disease.

Galeotti et al (2012) described the safety and effectiveness of IL-1-targeting drugs, anakinra and canakinumab, in patients with mevalonate kinase deficiency (MKD).  A questionnaire was sent to French pediatric and adult rheumatologists to retrospectively collect information on disease activity before and after treatment with IL-1 antagonists from genetically confirmed MKD patients.  The authors assessed the frequency of crises and their intensity using a 12-item clinical score built for the purpose of the study.  A total of 11 patients were included.  Anti-IL-1-targeting drugs were used continuously in all but 1 patient who received anakinra on demand.  Daily anakinra (9 patients) or canakinumab injections every 4 to 8 weeks (6 patients, in 4 cases following anakinra therapy) were associated with complete remission in 4 cases and partial remission in 7.  The median score during MKD attacks decreased from 7/12 before treatment to 3/12 after anakinra and 1/12 after canakinumab.  The number of days with fever during attacks decreased from 5 before treatment to 3 after anakinra and 2 after canakinumab.  Marked decrease of CRP and SAA protein were recorded.  Side effects were mild or moderate; they consisted of local pain and inflammation at injection site, infections and hepatic cytolysis.  The authors concluded that continuous IL-1 blockade brings substantial benefit to MKD patients.  More over, they stated that controlled trials are needed to further evaluate the clinical benefit and treatment modalities in these patients.

The American College of Rheumatology’s guidelines for management of gout (Khanna et al, 2012) noted that “Use of a biologic interleukin-1 (IL-1) inhibitor (anakinra 100 mg subcutaneously daily for 3 consecutive days; evidence B) or canakinumab 150 mg subcutaneously as an option for severe attacks of acute gouty arthritis refractory to other agents was graded as evidence A in the systematic review.  Given a lack of randomized studies for anakinra and the unclear risk/benefit ratio and lack of FDA approval for canakinumab at the time this was written, the authors, independent of TFP discussion, assessed the role of IL-1 inhibitor therapy in acute gout as uncertain”.

The FDA has approved Ilaris (canakinumab) for the treatment of active systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA) in patients aged 2 years and older (Novartis, 2013). This approval was based on two Phase III trials in SJIA patients, aged 2-19, showing significant improvement in the majority of canakinumab-treated patients.

Moran et al (2013) examined if canakinumab or anakinra improved β-cell function in recent-onset type 1 diabetes.  These researchers performed 2 randomized, placebo-controlled trials in 2 groups of patients with recent-onset type 1 diabetes and mixed-meal-tolerance-test-stimulated C peptide of at least 0.2 nM.  Patients in the canakinumab trial were aged 6 to 45 years and those in the anakinra trial were aged 18 to 35 years.  Patients in the canakinumab trial were enrolled at 12 sites in the USA and Canada and those in the anakinra trial were enrolled at 14 sites across Europe.  Participants were randomly assigned by computer-generated blocked randomization to subcutaneous injection of either 2 mg/kg (maximum 300 mg) canakinumab or placebo monthly for 12 months or 100 mg anakinra or placebo daily for 9 months.  Participants and care-givers were masked to treatment assignment.  The primary end-point was baseline-adjusted 2-hr area under curve C-peptide response to the mixed meal tolerance test at 12 months (canakinumab trial) and 9 months (anakinra trial).  Analyses were by intention to treat.  Patients were enrolled in the canakinumab trial between November 12, 2010, and April 11, 2011, and in the anakinra trial between January 26, 2009, and May 25, 2011.  A total of 69 patients were randomly assigned to canakinumab (n = 47) or placebo (n = 22) monthly for 12 months and 69 were randomly assigned to anakinra (n = 35) or placebo (n = 34) daily for 9 months.  No interim analyses were done.  A total of 45 canakinumab-treated and 21 placebo-treated patients in the canakinumab trial and 25 anakinra-treated and 26 placebo-treated patients in the anakinra trial were included in the primary analyses.  The difference in C peptide area under curve between the canakinumab and placebo groups at 12 months was 0.01 nmol/L (95 % CI: -0.11 to 0.14; p = 0.86), and between the anakinra and the placebo groups at 9 months was 0.02 nmol/L (-0.09 to 0.15; p = 0.71).  The number and severity of adverse events did not differ between groups in the canakinumab trial.  In the anakinra trial, patients in the anakinra group had significantly higher grades of adverse events than the placebo group (p = 0.018), which was mainly because of a higher number of injection site reactions in the anakinra group.  The authors concluded that canakinumab and anakinra were safe but were not effective as single immunomodulatory drugs in recent-onset type 1 diabetes. 

Thompson et al (2013) noted that rupture or erosion of an unstable atherosclerotic plaque is the typical pathology and usual cause of acute coronary syndromes (ACS).  Despite detailed understanding of the processes of lipid accumulation, thinning of the fibrous cap, and inflammation leading to plaque instability, there are no strategies in clinical use that uniquely target the unstable plaque.  These investigators performed a critical review of recent publications on potential therapies that could be used to stabilize unstable plaque.  They searched PubMed, other literature databases, drug development sites, and clinical trial registries to retrieve clinical studies on anti-inflammatory and lipid-modulating therapies that could be used to stabilize unstable atherosclerotic plaque.  Multiple experimental targets involving lipid and inflammatory pathways have the potential to stabilize the plaque and expand the armamentarium against coronary artery disease.  Randomized clinical trials of darapladib, methotrexate, canakinumab, and colchicine are well advanced to establish if plaque stabilization is feasible and effective in patients with ACS.  The authors concluded that although there are still no agents in clinical use for plaque stabilization, there are important advances in understanding plaque instability and several encouraging approaches are being evaluated in phase III clinical trials.

Herlin et al (2013) noted that Majeed syndrome is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by the triad of chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis, congenital dyserythropoietic anemia and transient inflammatory dermatosis that is caused by mutations in LPIN2.  Long-term outcome is poor.  These researchers stated that this was the first report detailing the treatment of Majeed syndrome with biological agents and demonstrated clinical improvement with IL-1blockade.  They described the clinical presentation, genetic analysis, cytokine profiles and response to biological therapy in 2 brothers with Majeed syndrome.  Both boys were homozygous for a novel 2-base pair deletion in LPIN2 (c.1312_1313delCT; p.Leu438fs+16X), confirming the diagnosis.  Their bone disease and anemia were refractory to treatment with corticosteroids.  Both siblings had elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines in their serum, including TNF-alpha, however a trial of the TNF inhibitor etanercept resulted in no improvement.  Interleukin-1 inhibition with either a recombinant IL-1 receptor antagonist (anakinra) or an anti-IL-1β antibody (canakinumab) resulted in dramatic clinical and laboratory improvement.  The authors concluded that the differential response to treatment with TNF-α or IL-1 blocking agents shed light into disease pathogenesis; it supported the hypothesis that Majeed syndrome is an IL-1β dependent auto-inflammatory disorder, and further underscored the importance of IL-1 in sterile bone inflammation.  These preliminary findings need to be validated by well-designed studies.

An UpToDate review on “Evaluation and diagnosis of hematogenous osteomyelitis in children” (Krogstad, 2013) states that “chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis [CRMO] is a sporadic illness in most cases, but it may also occur as part of a syndrome.  Majeed syndrome, for example, is an autosomal-recessive, lifelong disorder composed of CRMO, congenital dyserythropoietic anemia, and transient inflammatory dermatosis.  CRMO may also occur in the rare patient with deficiency of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist …. Treatment with glucocorticoids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents may provide transient relief of symptoms, but recurrences are common.  Successful treatment with sulfasalazine, methotrexate, gamma interferon, tumor necrosis factor alpha blocking therapy, and the bisphosphonate drug pamidronate also has been described”. 

Khanna et al (2014) systematically reviewed the published data on the pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic agents used for the treatment of acute gouty arthritis.  These investigators performed a systematic search using PubMed and Cochrane database through May 2013.  They included only randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that included non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, colchicine, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), IL-1 inhibitors, topical ice, or herbal supplements.  A total of 30 articles were selected for systematic review.  The results showed that NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors are effective agents for the treatment of acute gout attacks.  Systemic corticosteroids have similar efficacy to therapeutic doses of NSAIDs, with studies supporting oral and intra-muscular use.  Adrenocorticotropic hormone is suggested to be effective in acute gout.  Oral colchicine demonstrated to be effective, with low-dose colchicine demonstrating a comparable tolerability profile as placebo and a significantly lower side effect profile to high-dose colchicine.  The IL-1β inhibitory antibody, canakinumab, was effective for the treatment of acute attacks in patients who are refractory to and in those with contraindications to NSAIDs and/or colchicine.  However, rilonacept was demonstrated to be not as effective, and there are no RCTs for the use of anakinra.  The authors concluded that NSAIDs, COX-2 selective inhibitors, corticosteroids, colchicine, ACTH, and canakinumab have evidence to suggest efficacy in treatment of acute gout.

An UpToDate review on “Treatment of acute gout” (Becker, 2014a) does not mention rilonacept as a therapeutic option.  Furthermore, and UpToDate review on “Prevention of recurrent gout” (Becker, 2014b) states that “Identification of interleukin (IL)-1 as a major cytokine in the initiation of acute gouty flares has prompted interest in potential roles for IL-1 inhibitory agents (e.g., anakinra, canakinumab, or rilonacept) both in treatment of ongoing flares and as prophylaxis to prevent acute flares during the initiation of antihyperuricemic therapy.  The role of these biologic agents in routine clinical practice remains to be defined”.

An UpToDate review on “Systemic onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis: Treatment” (Lehman, 2014) states that “Rilonacept (an IL-1 receptor fusion protein) is available in the United States for treatment of autoinflammatory disorders, but its use in patients with systemic arthritis remains investigational.  No difference in efficacy, based upon ACR Pediatric 30, 50, and 70 scores, was observed in one trial of 24 patients with sJIA randomly assigned 2:1 to rilonacept (2.2 mg/kg in cohort 1 and 4.4 mg/kg in cohort 2, given subcutaneously on days 3, 7, 14, or 21) or placebo.  Fever and rash completely resolved by three months in the 23 patients who received rilonacept during the open-label phase, although 13 patients withdrew from the study during this phase before 24 months”.

In a Cochrane review, Sivera et al (2014) evaluated the benefits and harms of interleukin-1 inhibitors (anakinra, canakinumab, rilonacept) in acute gout. These investigators searched The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE and EMBASE on June 19, 2013. They applied no date or language restrictions, and performed a hand-search of the abstracts from the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) (2009 to 2012) and American College of Rheumatology (ACR) (2009 to 2011) conferences and of the references of all included trials. They also screened the Clinical Trials Registry Platform of the World Health Organization and Clinical Trials Registry Platform of the US National Institutes of Health. These investigators included RCTs and quasi-RCTs (controlled clinical trials (CCTs)) assessing an interleukin-1 inhibitor (anakinra, canakinumab or rilonacept) against placebo or another active treatment (colchicine, paracetamol, NSAIDs, glucocorticoids (systemic or intra-articular), adrenocorticotropin hormone, a different interleukin-1 blocking agent or a combination of any of the above) in adults with acute gout. Two review authors independently selected trials for inclusion, assessed the risk of bias and extracted the data. If appropriate, they pooled data in a meta-analysis. They assessed the quality of the evidence using the GRADE approach. The authors included 4 studies (806 participants) in the review. The studies had an unclear risk of selection bias and low risk of performance and attrition biases. One study each had an unclear risk of detection and selection bias. Three studies (654 participants) compared subcutaneous canakinumab compared with intra-muscular triamcinolone acetonide 40 mg in the treatment of acute gout flares of no more than 5 days' duration. Doses of canakinumab were varied (10 to 150 mg), but most people (255/368) were treated with canakinumab 150 mg. None of the studies provided data on participant-reported pain relief of 30 % or greater. Moderate-quality evidence indicated that canakinumab 150 mg was probably superior to triamcinolone acetonide 40 mg in terms of pain relief, resolution of joint swelling and in achieving a good treatment response at 72 hours following treatment, but was probably associated with an increased risk of adverse events. Mean pain (0- to 100-mm visual analog scale (VAS), where 0 mm was no pain) was 36 mm after triamcinolone acetonide treatment; pain was further reduced by a mean of 11 mm with canakinumab treatment (mean difference (MD) -10.6 mm, 95 % CI: -15.2 to -5.9); 44 % of participants treated with canakinumab had resolution of joint swelling at 72 hours compared with 32 % of participants treated with triamcinolone (risk ratio (RR) 1.39, 95 % CI: 1.11 to 1.74, number needed to treat for an addition beneficial outcome (NNTB) 9); 65 % of participants treated with canakinumab assessed their response to treatment as good or excellent compare with 47 % of participants treated with triamcinolone acetonide (RR 1.37, 95 % CI: 1.16 to 1.61, NNTB 6). Function or health-related quality of life was not measured. In both groups, 0.7 % of participants withdrew from treatment (RR 1.1, 95 % CI 0.2 to 7.2); there was 1 death and 1 alteration of laboratory results in each of the treatment groups. Adverse events were more frequent in participants receiving canakinumab (61 %) compared with triamcinolone acetonide (51 %; RR 1.2, 95 % CI: 1.1 to 1.4, number needed to treat for an addition harmful outcome (NNTH) 10). Low-quality evidence from 1 study (152 participants with an acute gout flare of no more than 48 hours' duration and affecting fewer than 4 joints) comparing rilonacept 320 mg with indomethacin (50 mg 3 times a day for 3 days followed by 25 mg 3 times a day for up to 9 days) indicated that indomethacin may improve pain more than rilonacept at 24 to 72 hours, and there may be no evidence of a difference in withdrawal rates or adverse events. The mean change (improvement) in pain from baseline with indomethacin was 4.3 points (measured on a 0 to 10 numerical rating scale, where 0 was no pain); pain was improved by a mean of only 2.5 points with rilonacept (MD 2.52, 95 % CI: 0.29 to 4.75, 25 % less improvement in absolute pain with rilonacept). Inflammation, function health-related quality of life and participant global assessment of treatment success were not measured. Rates of study withdrawals due to adverse events were low in both groups: 1/75 (1 %) participants in the rilonacept group compared with 2/76 (3 %) participants in the indomethacin group (RR 0.5, 95 % CI: 0.05 to 5.5). Adverse events were reported in 27/75 (36 %) participants in the rilonacept group and 23/76 (30 %) in the indomethacin group (RR 1.2, 95 % CI: 0.8 to 1.9). The authors concluded that moderate-quality evidence indicated that compared with a single suboptimal 40-mg dose of intra-muscular injection of triamcinolone acetonide, a single subcutaneous dose of 150 mg of canakinumab probably resulted in better pain relief, joint swelling and participant-assessed global assessment of treatment response in people with an acute gout flare but is probably associated with an increased risk of adverse events. The cost of canakinumab is over 5,000 times higher than triamcinolone acetonide; however, there are no data on the cost-effectiveness of this approach. They found no studies comparing canakinumab with more commonly used first-line therapies for acute gout flares such as NSAIDs or colchicine. These investigators stated that low-quality evidence indicated that compared with maximum doses of indomethacin (50 mg 3 times a day), 320 mg of rilonacept may provide less pain relief with a similar rate of adverse events.

Subacromial Bursitis

In a randomized, non-inferiority, single-center, unblinded study, Carroll et al (2015) compared rilonacept with triamcinolone acetonide in the treatment of subacromial bursitis. A total of 33 subjects were included in this study -- 20 subjects received 160 mg intra-bursal injection of rilonacept and 13 received a 6 ml mixture of lidocaine, bupivacaine, and 80 mg triamcinolone acetonide. QuickDASH, subject reported pain, and adverse events were recorded at time of injection, 2 days later, 2 weeks later, and 4 weeks later. Primary outcome was improvement in QuickDASH 4 weeks post-injection. Secondary outcomes were improvement in subject reported pain and occurrence of adverse events at 4 weeks. Both study groups were equally matched for age, gender, ethnicity, and site of bursa injection. Both medications demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in QuickDASH 4 weeks post-injection, but triamcinolone acetonide injection offered greater improvement (p = 0.004). Both medications demonstrated improvement in subject reported pain but between group comparison at 4 weeks showed that triamcinolone was superior (p = 0.044). No statistically significant differences in adverse events were noted between groups, but subjects who received rilonacept experienced more episodes of diarrhea and headache. The authors concluded that while improvement in QuickDASH and pain was noted with a single intra-bursal injection of rilonacept at 4 weeks, injection with triamcinolone acetonide was more effective and resulted in less adverse events. Well-designed studies are needed to ascertain the effectiveness of rilonacept in treating subacromial bursitis and that it is superior to injections of conventional agents.

Chronic Kidney Disease-Mineral and Bone Disorder

Nowak and colleagues (2017) stated that epidemiologic studies have suggested a link between chronic systemic inflammation and chronic kidney disease-mineral and bone disorder (CKD-MBD).  Additionally, declining renal function is associated with worsening physical and cognitive function, which may potentially be explained by systemic inflammation, CKD-MBD, or both.  These researchers hypothesized that inhibiting inflammation with rilonacept would improve markers of CKD-MBD as well as physical/cognitive function in patients with moderate-to-severe CKD.  In a 2-site, double-blind study, a total of 39 patients with stage 3 to 4 CKD completed a randomized trial receiving either rilonacept (160 mg/week) or placebo for 12 weeks.  The following CKD-MBD markers were assessed in serum before and after the intervention: calcium, phosphorus, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, 24,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, intact parathyroid hormone (iPTH), and fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23).  A battery of tests was also administered in a subgroup (n = 23) to assess multiple domains of physical function (endurance, locomotion, dexterity, balance, strength, and fatigue) and cognitive function.  Participants were 65 ± 10 years of age, 23 % female, and had a mean estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of 38 ± 13 ml/min/1.73m2.  There were no changes in serum calcium, phosphorus, any vitamin D metabolite, iPTH, or FGF23 levels (p ≥ 0.28) with rilonacept.  Similarly, rilonacept did not alter locomotion, dexterity, balance, strength, fatigue, or cognitive function (p ≥ 0.13).  However, endurance (400-m walk time) tended to improve in the rilonacept (-31 s) versus placebo group (-2 s; p = 0.07).  The authors concluded that 12 weeks of rilonacept did not improve markers of CKD-MBD or physical function.

Type-1 Diabetes Mellitus

White and colleagues (2018) conducted a phase-1 clinical trial of rilonacept in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).  A total of 13 T1DM patients (10 males) with median age (interquartile range [IQR]) of 17 years (16 to 18), a median (IQR) of 5 months (5 to 7) since diagnosis.  Rilonacept was administered subcutaneously for 26 weeks.  Incidence of infections was the primary end-point.  There were 85 AEs; 13 were Grade 2, of which 9 (8 infectious) were judged "possibly related" to the drug.  The mean (SD) C-peptide on 2-hour mixed meal tolerance tests decreased from 0.87 (0.42) to 0.59 (0.29) ng/ml (p = 0.01 by paired t-test) during 6 months on treatment.  Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) increased from 6.8 (1.1) to 7.3 (1.1) (p = 0.05), but there was not a significant change in daily insulin dose (0.41 ± 0.23 to 0.47 ± 0.18), or in insulin dose-adjusted HbA1c (IDAA1c, 8.4 ± 1.8 to 9.0 ± 1.5).  Subjects in "remission", defined as HbA1c of less than 6.5 and a total daily insulin dose less than 0.5 units/kg/24 hour, decreased from 5 to 4.  There were no significantly differentially expressed genes in peripheral blood leukocytes before and after rilonacept.  The authors concluded that rilonacept treatment for 6 months was well-tolerated in individuals with T1DM of recent onset, but is unlikely to be effective as a single agent in preserving beta cell function.


Arcalyst Dosage

Rilonacept is available as Arcalyst supplied as a sterile, single‐use 20mL, glass vial containing 220 mg of rilonacept as a lyophilized powder for reconstitution.

Adult patients 18 years and older

Initiate treatment with a loading dose of 320 mg delivered as two, 2-ml, subcutaneous injections of 160 mg on the same day at 2 different sites.  Continue dosing with a once-weekly injection of 160 mg administered as a single, 2-ml, subcutaneous injection.  Do not administer rilonacept more often than once-weekly. 

Pediatric patients aged 12 to 17 years

Initiate treatment with a loading dose of 4.4 mg/kg of body weight, up to a maximum of 320 mg, delivered as 1 or 2 subcutaneous injections with a maximum single-injection volume of 2 ml.  Continue dosing with a once-weekly injection of 2.2 mg/kg, up to a maximum of 160 mg, administered as a single subcutaneous injection, up to 2 ml.  If the initial dose is given as 2 injections, they should be given on the same day at 2 different sites.  Do not administer rilonacept more often than once-weekly.

Table: CPT Codes / HCPCS Codes / ICD-10 Codes
Code Code Description

Information in the [brackets] below has been added for clarification purposes.   Codes requiring a 7th character are represented by "+":

Other CPT codes related to the CPB::

96372 Therapeutic, prophylactic, or diagnostic injection (specify substance or drug); subcutaneous or intramuscular

HCPCS codes covered if selection criteria are met:

J2793 Injection, Rilonacept, 1 mg

Other HCPCS codes related to the CPB:

J0135 Injection, adalimumab, 20 mg
J1438 Injection, etanercept, 25 mg (code may be used for Medicare when drug administered under the direct supervision of a physician, not for use when drug is self-administered)
J1745 Injection, infliximab, 10 mg
Q5109 Injection, infliximab-qbtx, biosimilar, (ixifi), 10 mg

ICD-10 codes covered if selection criteria are met:

L50.2 Urticaria due to cold and heat [familial cold autoinflammatory syndrome (FCAS)]

ICD-10 codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB (not all inclusive):

D47.2 Monoclonal gammopathy [Schnitzler syndrome]
E10.10 - E10.9 Type 1 diabetes mellitus
E85.0 Non-neuropathic heredofamilial amyloidosis [except Muckle-Wells syndrome (MWS)]
I50.1 - I50.9 Heart failure
L11.1 Transient acantholytic dermatosis [Grover]
L98.8 Disorder of the skin and subcutaneous tissue, unspecified [inflammatory]
M04.1 - M04.9 Autoinflammatory syndromes
M06.1 Adult-onset Still's disease
M08.00 - M08.99 Juvenile arthritis
M1a.00x+ - M10.29 Idiopathic gout
M75.50 - M75.52 Bursitis of shoulder
N25.0 Renal osteodystrophy

The above policy is based on the following references:

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  25. Khanna D, Khanna PP, Fitzgerald JD, et al. 2012 American College of Rheumatology guidelines for management of gout. Part 2: Therapy and antiinflammatory prophylaxis of acute gouty arthritis.  Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2012;64(10):1447-1461.
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  32. Krogstad P. Evaluation and diagnosis of hematogenous osteomyelitis in children. UpToDate [online serial]. Waltham, MA: UpToDate; reviewed July 2013.
  33. Novartis Global. Novartis drug Ilaris approved by FDA to treat active systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a serious form of childhood arthritis. Media Releases. Basel, Switzerland: Novartis Global; May 10, 2013.
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