Background: The treatment goal of early rheumatoid arthritis is remission. This study reports remission rates in clinical practice using a cohort of patients with early rheumatoid arthritis.
Methods: 698 patients with early rheumatoid arthritis were included. Mean age at inclusion was 58 years and mean disease duration was 6.4 months; 64% of the patients were women, 56% were positive for antibodies to cyclic citrullinated peptide and 60% were positive for rheumatoid factor. Remission was defined as a disease activity score <2.6, with or without ongoing treatment with drugs for rheumatoid arthritis.
Results: After 2 years, 261 of 689 patients were in remission (37.9%), and after 5 years, the remission rate was 38.5%. However, only 26.1% were in remission at both these time points. Multiple logistic regression analyses found sex to be a main predictor for remission. Thus, significantly fewer women were in remission after 2 years (32.1% v 48%, p = 0.001) after 5 years (30.8% v 52.4%, p = 0.001) and at both these time points (19.1% v 39.3%, p = 0.001). Although disease activity was not with certainty more pronounced in women at onset of disease, the disease course became markedly worse in women. The disparity in remission frequency between women and men could not be explained by differences in disease duration, age or treatment with disease modifying antirheumatic drugs or glucocorticoids.
Conclusions: Early remission of rheumatoid arthritis by 28-joint Disease Activity Score<2.6 was as frequent or more frequent in this study than in most previous reports. Importantly, women had more severe disease with a considerably lower remission rate than men, although the disease activity before treatment seemed similar.