Objective: To observe the long-term safety and efficacy of combination therapy with etanercept and methotrexate in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to determine whether the addition of etanercept allowed reductions in methotrexate or corticosteroid dosages while maintaining a clinical response.
Methods: Patients with RA who received methotrexate plus etanercept in a previous randomized, placebo-controlled trial were offered the opportunity to enroll in an open-label extension study for further evaluation of treatment with etanercept and methotrexate.
Results: Seventy-nine of the 89 patients in the original blinded study enrolled in the extension study, and 65 of these patients continue in the study. Patients have received etanercept therapy for up to 47 months (median 44 months). The types and rate of adverse events noted during the extension trial were similar to those observed in the controlled trial. At the 3-year assessment, 77% of the 57 patients available for evaluation met American College of Rheumatology 20% (ACR20) criteria for improvement in RA, 47% met the ACR50 criteria, and 23% met the ACR70 criteria. Of the 36 patients assessed at 3 years in the extension study, 30 (83%) were able to decrease their dosages of corticosteroids, and 20 (56%) were able to discontinue corticosteroid therapy. At 3 years, the dosage of methotrexate was decreased in 41 of 66 patients (62%), and methotrexate therapy was discontinued in 19 patients (29%).
Conclusion: In this observational continuation study, the addition of etanercept to background methotrexate provided sustained clinical benefit over a median period of 44 months. With etanercept therapy, there were trends toward dosage reduction or discontinuation of methotrexate and corticosteroids, without apparent worsening of ACR response rates. Compared with the controlled trial, no increases in the rate of adverse events were observed.