Background and purpose: Etanercept (Enbrel), a recombinant tumor necrosis factor receptor fusion protein, has been shown to be effective in the treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The purpose of this study was to compare the efficacy and safety of etanercept in combination with methotrexate (MTX) and MTX alone in Taiwanese patients with active RA.
Methods: In this double-blind study, 58 patients with active RA who were maintained on MTX therapy at a stable dose of 12.5 to 20 mg per week for 4 weeks were randomized to receive either etanercept 25 mg (n = 29) or placebo (n = 29) by subcutaneous injection twice weekly over a period of 12 weeks. The primary endpoint was the reduction of tender and swollen joint counts by 20% (ACR 20), 50% (ACR 50), and 70% (ACR 70) as determined by the American College of Rheumatology criteria at the 12th week.
Results: The addition of etanercept to MTX resulted in a greater reduction in the number of tender (7.00 vs 2.45, p = 0.012) and swollen joints (8.55 vs 3.86, p = 0.017), and in serum levels of C-reactive protein (1.26 mg/dL vs 0.45 mg/dL, p = 0.014) compared to MTX alone after 12 weeks of therapy. In addition, the global assessment of disease activity by both physicians and patients, duration of morning stiffness, pain visual analog scale score, and Health Assessment Questionnaire were all improved by etanercept plus MTX therapy. Results for the overall improvement in disease activity assessed by ACR 20 (90% vs 34%), ACR 50 (66% vs 10%) and ACR 70 (24% vs 0%) all favored the etanercept plus MTX group. However, the adverse events were comparable between the 2 treatment groups.
Conclusion: Etanercept in combination with MTX was well tolerated and provided significantly more clinical benefit than MTX alone in Taiwanese patients with active RA.