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Extended report
Impact of temporary methotrexate discontinuation for 2 weeks on immunogenicity of seasonal influenza vaccination in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomised clinical trial


Objective To determine whether a 2-week methotrexate (MTX) discontinuation after vaccination improves the efficacy of seasonal influenza vaccination in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods In this prospective randomised parallel-group multicentre study, patients with RA on stable dose of MTX were randomly assigned at a ratio of 1:1 to continue MTX or to hold MTX for 2 weeks after 2016–2017 quadrivalent seasonal influenza vaccine containing H1N1, H3N2, B-Yamagata and B-Victoria. The primary outcome was frequency of satisfactory vaccine response, defined as greater than or equal to fourfold increase of haemagglutination inhibition (HI) antibody titre at 4 weeks after vaccination against ≥2 of four vaccine strains. Secondary endpoints included seroprotection (ie, HI titre ≥1:40) rate, fold change in antibody titres.

Results The modified intention-to-treat population included 156 patients in the MTX-continue group and 160 patients in the MTX-hold group. More patients in MTX-hold group achieved satisfactory vaccine response than the MTX-continue group (75.5% vs 54.5%, p<0.001). Seroprotection rate was higher in the MTX-hold group than the MTX-continue group for all four antigens (H1N1: difference 10.7%, 95% CI 2.0% to 19.3%; H3N2: difference 15.9%, 95% CI 5.9% to 26.0%; B-Yamagata: difference13.7%, 95% CI 5.2% to 22.4%; B-Victoria: difference 14.7%, 95% CI 4.5% to 25.0%). The MTX-hold group showed higher fold increase in their antibody titres against all four influenza antigens (all p<0.05). Change in disease activity was similar between groups.

Conclusions A temporary MTX discontinuation for 2 weeks after vaccination improves the immunogenicity of seasonal influenza vaccination in patients with RA without increasing RA disease activity.

Trial registration NCT02897011.

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • methotrexate
  • discontinuation
  • vaccination
  • influenza

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