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Modern treatment strategies in rheumatoid arthritis.

Author(s): Hetland ML

Affiliation(s): Department of Rheumatology RM, Glostrup Hospital, Nordre Ringvej 57, 2600 Glostrup, Denmark. merete.hetland@dadlnet.dk.

Publication date & source: 2011-11, Dan Med Bull., 58(11):B4320.

The main aim of the thesis was to evaluate the impact of modern treatment strategies on disease activity and disease course in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to identify predictors for treatment response. Two different treatment strategies were investigated: (A) Aggressive, conventional treatment aiming at achieving inflammatory control in patients with recent-onset RA and (B) Treatment with tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) inhibitors in patients with RA, who had an incomplete response to conventional treatment. (A) was studied in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial (CIMESTRA), whereas (B) was investigated in an observational, nationwide cohort study (the DANBIO database). The main findings were: 1. Treatment strategy (A) with methotrexate (MTX) and injections of glucocorticoids into swollen joints had rapid and sustained effect and reduced disease activity and halted joint damage. Addition of cyclosporine during the first 2 years reduced disease activity for as long as it was given, but had no effect on the development of joint damage. After 5 years, the majority of the patients was in remission and had no progression of structural joint damage. 2. Bone marrow oedema by Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the wrists predicted the development of structural joint damage 2 to 5 years later (based on x-rays). Anti-CCP antibodies and structural joint damage at the start of treatment were also independent predictors for joint damage after 5 years. 3. Routine registration of adverse events observed in patients who received treatment with etanercept or infliximab (TNFalpha inhibitors) in the DANBIO database picked up twice as many serious adverse events than the spontaneous, mandatory reports to the Danish Medicines Agency. 4. Despite changes in prescription practice for the treatment with TNFalpha inhibitors in clinical practice from year 2000 to year 2005 towards less stringent treatment criteria, DANBIO data showed an improved treatment response. 5. High age, low functional status and concomitant treatment with prednisolone were negative predictors of a EULAR good response and remission after 6 months of treatment with TNFalpha inhibitors in clinical practice. 6. In patients, who were naive to treatment with TNFalpha inhibitors, significant differences between drugs were observed regarding treatment responses and adherence to therapies. Infliximab had the lowest treatment response, remission rates and adherence to therapy. Adalimumab had the highest treatment response and remission rates, whereas etanercept had the highest adherence. In conclusion, the results from the CIMESTRA trial and the DANBIO database showed that an aggressive treatment strategy with conventional drugs and intra-articular injections with betamethasone effectively controlled disease activity and prevent structural joint damage in patients with early RA. TNFalpha inhibitors were efficacious in clinical practice in the treatment of RA patients that had failed conventional treatment. Differences between the TNFalpha inhibitors regarding efficacy and drug adherence were found. Predictors of disease course and treatment response were identified.

Page last updated: 2011-12-09

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