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In terms of the relationship between synovial inflammation and radiographic changes, including both joint damage repair and progression,1 in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), pre-existing joint damage and persistent synovitis may promote joint destruction, while in the absence of synovitis, damaged joints may heal.2 ,3 Although presentation of radiographic results using cumulative probability plots has substantially improved understanding of clinical trial data,4 the effects of treatments on radiographic progression and improvement (regression) in individual RA patients has not yet been fully explained.
In the JESMR study,5 ,6 151 active RA patients unresponsive to treatment with methotrexate (MTX) were randomised into 1 of 2 treatment groups: etanercept (ETN) 50 mg/week with 6–8 mg/week of MTX (the E+M group), or ETN alone (the E group). Radiographs of the hands and feet before ETN (baseline) and during the first year of treatment were available from 53 (72%) and 68 (88%) patients in the E and E+M groups, respectively. Baseline characteristics of patients were comparable between those with and without available radiographic data in each treatment group (data not shown). However, most patients without data did not complete the study up to Week 52 as per protocol, chiefly due to lack of efficacy in the E group.6 The mean baseline total Sharp-van der Heijde score (TSS)7 was 114.5 in the E group and 113.1 in the E+M …