Background: Circadian rhythms are changed in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. A new modified-release delivery system has been developed which adapts the release of the administered glucocorticoid to the circadian rhythms of endogenous cortisol and disease symptoms to improve the benefit-risk ratio of glucocorticoid therapy in rheumatoid arthritis. We aimed to assess the efficacy and safety of a new modified-release prednisone tablet compared with immediate-release prednisone in patients with this disease.
Methods: In a 12-week, multicentre, randomised, double-blind trial, 288 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis were randomly assigned to either a modified-release prednisone tablet (n=144) or to an immediate-release prednisone tablet (n=144). The modified-release tablet was taken at bedtime and prednisone was released with a delay of 4 h after ingestion. This treatment was compared with morning administration of immediate-release prednisone as an active comparator. The primary outcome measure was duration of morning stiffness of the joints. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00146640.
Findings: The mean relative change in duration of morning stiffness of the joints from baseline to end of treatment was significantly higher with modified-release prednisone than with immediate-release prednisone (-22.7%vs -0.4%; difference=22.4% [95% CI 0.49-44.30]; p=0.045). Patients in the prednisone modified-release group achieved a mean reduction of 44.0 (SD 136.6) min compared with baseline. The absolute difference between the treatment groups was 29.2 min (95% CI -2.59 to 61.9) in favour of modified-release prednisone (p=0.072). The safety profile did not differ between treatments.
Interpretation: Modified-release prednisone is well tolerated, convenient to administer, and produces a clinically relevant reduction of morning stiffness of the joints in addition to all known therapeutic effects of immediate-release prednisone.