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Extended report
Tumour necrosis factor blockade for the treatment of erosive osteoarthritis of the interphalangeal finger joints: a double blind, randomised trial on structure modification
  1. Gust Verbruggen,
  2. Ruth Wittoek,
  3. Bert Vander Cruyssen,
  4. Dirk Elewaut
  1. Rheumatology Department, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Gust Verbruggen, Ghent University Hospital, Rheumatology Department, De Pintelaan 185, BE 9000 Ghent, Belgium; gust.verbruggen{at}


Background Adalimumab blocks the action of tumor necrosis factor-α and reduces disease progression in rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. The effects of adalimumab in controlling progression of structural damage in erosive hand osteoarthritis (HOA) were assessed.

Methods Sixty patients with erosive HOA on radiology received 40 mg adalimumab or placebo subcutaneously every two weeks during a 12-month randomized double-blind trial. Response was defined as the reduction in progression of structural damage according to the categorical anatomic phase scoring system. Furthermore, subchondral bone, bone plate erosion, and joint-space narrowing were scored according to the continuous Ghent University Score System (GUSSTM).

Results The disease appeared to be active since 40.0% and 26,7% of patients out of the placebo and adalimumab group, respectively, showed at least one new interphalangeal (IP) joint that became erosive during the 12 months follow-up. These differences were not significant and the overall results showed no effect of adalimumab.

Risk factors for progression were then identified and the presence of palpable soft tissue swelling at baseline was recognized as the strongest predictor for erosive progression. In this subpopulation at risk, statistically significant less erosive evolution on the radiological image (3.7%) was seen in the adalimumab treated group compared to the placebo group (14.5%) (P = 0.009). GUSSTM scoring confirmed a less rapid rate of mean increase in the erosion scores during the first 6 months of treatment in patients in adalimumab-treated patients.

Conclusion Palpable soft tissue swelling in IP joints in patients with erosive HOA is a strong predictor for erosive progression. In these joints adalimumab significantly halted the progression of joint damage compared to placebo.

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  • GV and RW contributed equally to the study.

  • Ethics approval The study protocol was approved by the Ghent University Hospital Ethics Committee.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed

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