Effectiveness of a third tumor necrosis factor-α-blocking agent compared with rituximab after failure of 2 TNF-blocking agents in rheumatoid arthritis

Marlies Blom, Wietske Kievit, A Rogier T Donders, Alfons A den Broeder, Vincent H H P Straten, Ina Kuper, Henk Visser, Tim L Jansen, Herman L M Brus, Amanda J W Branten, Mart A F J van de Laar, Piet L C M van Riel
Journal of Rheumatology 2011, 38 (11): 2355-61

OBJECTIVE: To compare the effectiveness of a third tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α)-blocking agent with rituximab after failure of 2 TNF-blocking agents in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in daily clinical practice.

METHODS: Patients receiving a third TNF-blocking agent or rituximab after failure of 2 TNF-blocking agents were selected from a Dutch biologic registry. The primary outcome was the results from the Disease Activity Score of 28 joints (DAS28) over the first 12 months after start of the third biologic using mixed-model analyses. Secondary outcomes included the course of the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) and the separate components of the DAS28 over the first 12 months and the change from baseline in DAS28 and HAQ at 3 and 6 months.

RESULTS: The overall course of the DAS28 over the first 12 months was significantly better for rituximab (p = 0.0044), as also observed for the HAQ, although the latter results were not statistically significant (p = 0.0537). The erythrocyte sedimentation rates, C-reactive protein, and swollen joint counts showed a better course for rituximab (p = 0.0008, p = 0.0287, p = 0.0547, respectively), but not the tender joint counts or visual analog scale for general health. DAS28 decreased significantly in both groups at 3 and 6 months (p ≤ 0.024), but the change in HAQ was significant for rituximab only at 3 months (p = 0.009).

CONCLUSION: During the first 12 months of therapy, a larger improvement in disease activity and a trend toward a larger decrease in functional disability was observed in patients receiving rituximab. Switching to a biologic with another mechanism of action might be more effective after failure of 2 TNF-blocking agents in RA.

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