Objective: To ascertain whether a 1-year remission induction therapy with an infliximab-MTX (INF-MTX) combination in patients with early RA provided sustained benefit after INF cessation compared with conventional treatment.
Methods: Twenty patients with poor prognosis RA of < 1 year of disease duration were randomized to receive either INF and MTX or placebo infusions and MTX for 1 year. They then stepped down to MTX monotherapy and were treated according to standard clinical care. After 8 years, disease activity, function and quality of life (QoL) data were collected.
Results: At follow-up, data were available for 18 patients (1 in each group had died). Median 28-joint DAS was significantly lower in the INF-MTX group compared with placebo-MTX group (2.7 vs 4.3, P = 0.02). Four patients in the INF-MTX group were in remission vs none in the placebo-MTX group. One patient in the INF-MTX group achieved drug-free remission. Both RAQoL and HAQ median scores were lower in the INF-MTX group; however, this did not reach statistical significance (median RAQoL 3 vs 8, P = 0.18; median HAQ 1.0 vs 1.5, P = 0.12).
Conclusion: A remission induction regime with an INF-MTX combination for 1 year in early RA can improve long-term clinical outcomes. Larger studies will be required to confirm the implications of these findings.