COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Contemporary use of disease-modifying drugs in the management of patients with early rheumatoid arthritis in Norway

C Nikolaisen, T K Kvien, K Mikkelsen, C Kaufmann, E Rødevand, J C Nossent
Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology 2009, 38 (4): 240-5
19229766

OBJECTIVE: As treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are rapidly expanding, we evaluated the current use of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in the management of patients with early RA in Norway with particular attention to the influence of risk factors for a poor disease outcome on DMARD selection.

METHODS: An observational multicentre study registering the type of therapy initiated in 820 DMARD-naive patients with early active RA [67% female, mean age 51 years, disease duration 4 months, 57% rheumatoid factor (RF) positive]. The impact of baseline risk factors associated with poor prognosis (disease activity parameters and biomarkers of inflammation) on DMARD selection was analysed through odds ratios (ORs) by multivariate logistic regression.

RESULTS: Methotrexate (MTX) monotherapy was selected for 78% of patients. MTX was preferred over sulfasalazine (SSZ) monotherapy (19%), leflunomide monotherapy (2%), and combination therapy (2%) in female patients [OR 1.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1-2.5], age >50 years (OR 2.5, 95% CI 1.6-3.8), short disease duration (OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.4-5.0), 10 swollen joints (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.2-4.0), and erosive disease (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.1-3.2). Concurrent steroid therapy was started in 73% of patients, regardless of the type of DMARD therapy initiated.

CONCLUSION: Monotherapy with MTX is currently the DMARD treatment of choice for early RA in Norway. Disease duration, age, swollen joint count, and erosive disease have considerable impact on DMARD selection in contrast to the presence of biomarkers. Few patients with early RA in Norway receive combination DMARD therapy, while the majority of patients receive corticosteroid bridging therapy.

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