Comparison of etanercept and methotrexate, alone and combined, in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: two-year clinical and radiographic results from the TEMPO study, a double-blind, randomized trial

Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Apr;54(4):1063-74. doi: 10.1002/art.21655.


Objective: To evaluate the efficacy, including radiographic changes, and safety of etanercept and methotrexate (MTX), used in combination and alone, in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in whom previous treatment with a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug other than MTX had failed.

Methods: Patients with RA were treated with etanercept (25 mg subcutaneously twice weekly), oral MTX (up to 20 mg weekly), or combination therapy with etanercept plus MTX through a second year, in a double-blinded manner. Clinical response was assessed using American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria and the Disease Activity Score (DAS), in a modified intent-to-treat analysis with the last observation carried forward (LOCF) and in a population of completers. Radiographs of the hands, wrists, and forefeet were scored for erosions and joint space narrowing at annual intervals.

Results: A total of 503 of 686 patients continued into year 2 of the study. During the 2 years, significantly fewer patients receiving combination therapy withdrew from the study (29% of the combination therapy group, 39% of the etanercept group, and 48% of the MTX group). Both the LOCF and the completer analyses yielded similar results. The ACR 20% improvement (ACR20), ACR50, and ACR70 responses and the remission rates (based on a DAS of <1.6) were significantly higher with combination therapy than with either monotherapy (P<0.01). Similarly, improvement in disability (based on the Health Assessment Questionnaire) was greater with combination therapy (P<0.01). The combination therapy group showed significantly less radiographic progression than did either group receiving monotherapy (P<0.05); moreover, radiographic progression was significantly lower in the etanercept group compared with the MTX group (P<0.05). For the second consecutive year, overall disease progression in the combination therapy group was negative, with the 95% confidence interval less than zero. Adverse events were similar in the 3 treatment groups.

Conclusion: Etanercept in combination with MTX reduced disease activity, slowed radiographic progression, and improved function more effectively than did either monotherapy over a 2-year period. No increase in toxicity was associated with combination treatment with etanercept plus MTX.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Etanercept
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / administration & dosage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / administration & dosage*
  • Time Factors


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Etanercept
  • Methotrexate