Objective: To determine whether it may be successful to try another TNF-alpha antagonist (infliximab or etanercept) when one has failed due to non response or the development of side effects.
Methods: In a cohort of 282 patients with rheumatoid arthritis treated with infliximab or etanercept, we observed 38 patients who had received both agents.
Results: Twenty-four patients received infliximab first and 14 received etanercept first. Discontinuation was due to a lack of efficiency for 29 patients and to the occurence of an adverse effect for 9 patients. For 25 out of the 38 patients, the switch was a success according to the global physician's assessment 3 months after switching. This result was correlated to a significant decrease of DAS 28 measurements and CRP values (p < 0.05). The response after switching was recorded as a success for 18 out of the 24 patients who were treated with infliximab first, and for 12 out of the 14 patients who were treated with etanercept first. There was no statistical difference concerning the response after the switch between the two groups. Among the 29 patients who discontinued the first anti TNF-alpha treatment due to lack of efficiency, only 6 did not respond to the second anti TNF-alpha treatment. Only one out of the 9 patients who stopped a first anti TNF-alpha treatment after developing a side effect underwent an adverse event with the second anti TNF-alpha treatment.
Conclusion: Our study suggests that switching between TNF-alpha antagonists seems to be relevant, regardless of which one was used first. It is legitimate to try to switch TNF-alpha blockers before contemplating other therapeutic strategies.