Treatment strategies in patients with rheumatoid arthritis for whom methotrexate monotherapy has failed: data from the NOR-DMARD register

Elisabeth Lie, Désirée van der Heijde, Till Uhlig, Knut Mikkelsen, Synøve Kalstad, Cecilie Kaufmann, Erik Rødevand, Tore K Kvien
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2011, 70 (12): 2103-10

OBJECTIVES: To compare the effectiveness of adding synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (sDMARDs) versus tumour necrosis factor α inhibitors (TNFi) to methotrexate (MTX) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who were MTX inadequate responders (IR). Second, to examine outcomes in patients receiving MTX+TNFi for whom the MTX+sDMARD combination had also failed.

METHODS: Patients with RA (disease duration ≤ 5 years, MTX IR and naïve to other DMARDs) starting treatment with MTX+TNFi or MTX+sDMARDs were included. From the latter group a subgroup of patients who went on to receive MTX+TNFi was identified.

RESULTS: Patients receiving MTX+TNFi (n=98) and MTX+sDMARDs (n=129) had similar baseline disease activity when starting combination therapy (mean Disease Activity Score 28 (DAS28) = 4.90 and 4.96, respectively). Three- and 6-month effectiveness and 2-year drug survival were better for MTX+TNFi than for MTX+sDMARDs: mean DAS28 was -1.61 versus -0.85 after 3 months (p<0.001) and -1.91 versus -1.03 after 6 months (p=0.01); DAS28<2.6 was reached by 29.0% versus 11.6% after 3 and 34.5% versus 12.9% after 6 months. Effectiveness was somewhat better with triple therapy than other MTX+sDMARD combinations but was generally inferior compared with MTX+TNFi. For the patients who received MTX+TNFi as a third step after MTX+sDMARDs had failed (n=38) there was a tendency towards lower remission rates, worse disease activity states and inferior drug survival compared with patients who received MTX+TNFi directly after the failure of MTX.

CONCLUSIONS: Effectiveness was better for MTX+TNFi than for MTX+sDMARDs. Patients who started MTX+TNFi after two synthetic DMARD regimens had failed had a tendency to less favourable disease states after 3 months than patients who switched directly from MTX to MTX+TNFi.

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