Objective: To analyze the rate and baseline prognostic factors of clinical remission in a series of patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) after 2 years of therapy based on a structured algorithm using disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in a clinical setting. To determine whether a good therapeutic response at 6 months of therapy is associated with remission at 2 years.
Methods: One hundred and five patients (81% female) with early RA (disease duration < 2 years) treated with the same therapeutic protocol using gold salts and methotrexate in a step-up strategy, together with methylprednisolone (4 mg/day), were followed up for 2 years. The outcome variable was clinical remission after 2 years of DMARD therapy using the 28-joint disease activity score (DAS28 < 2.6). Clinical, biological, immunogenetic and radiographic data (Larsen score) were analyzed at study entry and after 6, 12, 18 and 24 months of follow-up. Therapeutic response was analyzed using the ACR and EULAR criteria.
Results: Remission was observed in 34 patients (32.4%) after 2 years of follow-up. A baseline DAS28 score < 5.1 (p = 0.004), hemoglobin (p = 0.04) and male gender (p = 0.02) were associated with remission in the univariate analysis. In the multivariate logistic regression analysis, only a DAS28 < 5.1 was associated with remission at 2 years (OR 4.1, 95% CI: 1.56;10.77, p = 0.004). The percentage of ACR50 responses after 6 months was significantly higher in patients with remission at 2 years than in those without (66.7% vs 43.3%; p = 0.04). Similar results were obtained when analyzing the good EULAR response (50% vs 20.9%; p = 0.003). Furthermore, when the therapeutic response at 6 months was included in the logistic regression model, only an ACR50 response (OR 3.9, 95% CI 1.14;13.38, p = 0.03) and a good EULAR response (OR 6.23, 95% CI 1.61; 24.04, p = 0.008), but not an ACR20 response or a whole EULAR response were significantly associated with remission.
Conclusion: In a series of early RA patients treated using a structured algorithm with DMARDs and very low doses of glucocorticoids, clinical remission was observed in one-third of patients after 2 years. Low or moderate disease activity (DAS28 < 5.1) at baseline and a good therapeutic response during the first months of therapy predicts clinical remission at 2 years.