Objective: To evaluate if remission induced by low-dose prednisolone during the first 2 years of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the BARFOT glucocorticoid (GC) study had a sustained effect on radiological damage for a total of 4 years.
Methods: A total of 150 of 211 eligible patients with RA who had been randomised to the 7.5 mg prednisolone group (P) or no prednisolone group (NoP) in addition to the initial disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs were included. Radiographs of hands and feet were scored using the Sharp–van der Heijde scoring method. A patient was considered to be in remission if the 28-joint count disease activity score was <2.6.
Results: Mean (SD) age was 53 (14) and 57 (12) years for the patients in the P and NoP groups, respectively. 64% were female, 64% rheumatoid factor positive, and disease duration at baseline was 6 months. At 2 years the proportion of patients in remission in the P and NoP groups was 55 vs 30%, p = 0.003. Longitudinal analysis showed that over the entire course of the disease, patients on prednisolone had a higher probability of being in remission. Patients in remission at 2 years, compared with those not in remission, had significantly lower total Sharp score, erosion score and joint space narrowing score at 2 and 4 years. The changes in bone mineral density during the 4 years did not differ between those in remission and those with active disease, and were similar in the two treatment groups.
Conclusions: Prednisolone 7.5 mg daily in addition to disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs increases the rate of remission in patients with early RA, which has a beneficial and sustained effect on radiological damage.
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Competing interests: None.