Objective Early treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with combination treatment starting with methotrexate, sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine and prednisolone (FIN-RACo strategy) is superior to monotherapy. A study was undertaken to determine whether infliximab (INFL) added to intensified FIN-RACo treatment for the initial 6 months improves the 2-year outcome.
Methods 99 patients with early untreated active RA were enrolled in an investigator-initiated, randomised, double-blind, multicentre, parallel-group trial. Primary outcomes were remission and radiological changes at 2 years. All patients started with FIN-RACo. In addition, they were randomised to receive INFL or placebo (Pla) from weeks 4 to 26.
Results At 24 months, 66% and 53%, respectively, of the patients in the FIN-RACo+INFL and FIN-RACo+Pla groups were in remission according to the modified American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria (p=0.19), 26% and 10% were in sustained modified ACR remission (p=0.042) and 82% in both groups were in remission by 28-joint disease activity score (not significant). Mean changes in the total Sharp-van der Heijde score were 0.2 and 1.4, respectively (p=0.0058).
Conclusions Most patients with early active RA achieve clinical remission and develop negligible joint damage with the intensified FIN-RACo regimen. Adding INFL for the first 6 months delays radiological progression.