Objective To study whether adding initial infliximab to remission-targeted initial combination-DMARD treatment improves the long-term outcomes in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods Ninety-nine patients with early, DMARD-naïve RA were treated with a triple combination of DMARDs, starting with methotrexate (max 25 mg/week), sulfasalazine (max 2 g/day), hydroxychloroquine (35 mg/kg/week), and with prednisolone (7.5 mg/day), and randomised to double blindly receive either infliximab (3 mg/kg; FIN-RACo+INFL) or placebo (FIN-RACo+PLA) infusions during the first 6 months. After 2 years the treatment strategies became unrestricted, but the treatment goal was strict ACR remission. At 5 years the clinical and radiographic outcomes were assessed.
Results Ninety-one patients (92%) were followed up to 5 years, 45 in the FIN-RACo+INFL and 46 in the FIN-RACo+PLA groups. At 5 years, the respective proportions of patients in strict ACR and in disease activity score 28 remissions in the FIN-RACo+INFL and FIN-RACo+PLA groups were 60% (95% CI 44% to 74%) and 61% (95% CI 45% to 75%) (p=0.87), and 84% (95% CI 71% to 94%) and 89% (95% CI 76% to 96%) (p=0.51). The corresponding mean (SD) total Sharp/van der Heijde scores at 5 years were 4.3 (7.6), and 5.3 (7.3), while the respective mean Sharp/van der Heijde scores changes from baseline to 5 years were 1.6 (95% CI 0.0 to 3.4) and 3.7 (95% CI 2.2 to 5.8) (p=0.13).
Conclusions In early RA, targeted treatment with a combination of traditional DMARDs and prednisolone induces remission and minimises radiographic progression in most patients up to 5 years; adding initial infliximab for 6 months does not improve these outcomes.
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