COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Clinical and radiological efficacy of initial vs delayed treatment with infliximab plus methotrexate in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis

S M van der Kooij, S le Cessie, Y P M Goekoop-Ruiterman, J K de Vries-Bouwstra, D van Zeben, P J S M Kerstens, J M W Hazes, D van Schaardenburg, F C Breedveld, B A C Dijkmans, C F Allaart
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2009, 68 (7): 1153-8
18930988

OBJECTIVES: To compare the clinical and radiological efficacy of initial vs delayed treatment with methotrexate (MTX) and infliximab (IFX) in patients with recent onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

METHODS: In a post hoc analysis of the BeSt study (for Behandel Stratagieen, Dutch for treatment strategies), 117 patients who started initial MTX+IFX were compared with 67 patients who started MTX+IFX treatment after failing (disease activity score (DAS)>2.4; median delay to IFX: 13 months) on > or =3 traditional DMARDs. If the DAS remained >2.4, the protocol dictated IFX dose increases to 6, 7.5 and 10 mg/kg. In case of a DAS < or =2.4 for > or =6 months, IFX was tapered and finally stopped. We aimed to correct for allocation bias using propensity scores. Functional ability was measured by the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), radiological progression by Sharp/van der Heijde scoring (SHS).

RESULTS: Baseline differences between the initial and delayed groups were no longer significant after propensity score adjustment. At 3 years after baseline, patients treated with initial MTX+IFX experienced more improvement in HAQ over time and were less likely to have SHS progression than patients treated with delayed MTX+IFX (p = 0.034). At 2 years after IFX initiation, more patients in the initial group compared with the delayed group could discontinue IFX after a good response (56% vs 29%, p = 0.008).

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this post hoc analysis suggest that using MTX+IFX as initial treatment for patients with recent onset RA is more effective than reserving MTX+IFX for patients who failed on traditional DMARDs, with more HAQ improvement over time, more IFX discontinuation and less progression of joint damage.

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