JOURNAL ARTICLE
MULTICENTER STUDY
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Limited efficacy of conventional DMARDs after initial methotrexate failure in patients with recent onset rheumatoid arthritis treated according to the disease activity score

Sjoerd M van der Kooij, Jeska K de Vries-Bouwstra, Yvonne P M Goekoop-Ruiterman, Derkjen van Zeben, Pit J S M Kerstens, Andreas H Gerards, Johannes H L M van Groenendael, Johanna M W Hazes, Ferdinand C Breedveld, Cornelia F Allaart, Ben A C Dijkmans
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2007, 66 (10): 1356-62
17293364

OBJECTIVES: To determine the efficacy of subsequent disease modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) therapies after initial methotrexate (MTX) failure in patients with recent onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA), treated according to the DAS for 2 years.

METHODS: In groups 1 and 2 of the BeSt study, 244 RA patients were initially treated with MTX 15-25 mg/week. Patients who discontinued MTX because of insufficient clinical response (disease activity score, DAS >2.4) or toxicity were classified as "MTX failures." In group 1, these patients switched to sulfasalazine (SSA), then leflunomide and finally to MTX + infliximab (IFX). In group 2, "MTX failures" added SSA to MTX, then hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), then prednisone, and eventually switched to MTX + IFX. "MTX successes" were patients who achieved a DAS </=2.4 after 2 years while still on MTX monotherapy. Total Sharp/van der Heijde score (TSS) progression from 0-2 years was assessed in "MTX failures" versus "MTX successes."

RESULTS: After 2 years, 162/244 patients (66%) had discontinued MTX because of insufficient response or toxicity. Of these, 78% also failed on SSA (adding or switching), 87% subsequently failed on leflunomide (in group 1), and 64% on MTX + SSA + HCQ (in group 2). 34 of 48 patients (71%) in groups 1 and 2 were successfully treated with MTX + IFX. After 2 years, regardless of the "success" on subsequent DMARDs, " MTX failures" had a median TSS progression of 3 units (mean 9) versus 1 unit (mean 3) in "MTX successes" (p = 0.007).

CONCLUSION: After failure on initial MTX, treatment with subsequent conventional DMARDs is unlikely to result in a DAS </=2.4 and allows progression of joint damage.

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