Treatment with TNF-α inhibitor infliximab might reduce hand osteoarthritis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2010 Oct;18(10):1256-62. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2010.07.011. Epub 2010 Aug 5.


Objectives: To investigate the association between systemic and local inflammation and incident and progressive radiographic secondary osteoarthritis (OA) in interphalangeal joints (IPJs) over 3 years in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and the effect of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) inhibitor infliximab on secondary OA in IPJs.

Methods: In the present observational longitudinal study baseline and 3-year hand X-rays of 416 recent-onset RA patients were scored for osteophytes and erosions in IPJs, blinded for time, using Osteoarthritis Research Society International atlas and Sharp-van der Heijde score. The associations between inflammatory factors and incident and progressive secondary OA in distal IPJs (DIPJs) and proximal IPJs (PIPJs) and the effect of infliximab compared to disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug treatment on secondary OA were analyzed by multivariable regression and generalised estimating equations analyses.

Results: Sixty-seven percent of the patients were female with, at baseline, a mean age of 54 years and OA present in DIPJs and PIPJs in 37% and 13%. Three years later, new secondary OA in DIPJs and PIPJs was seen in 11% and 10%, and progressive secondary OA in 36% and 35%. High erythrocyte sedimentation rate over 3 years and progressive erosive damage were risk factors for incident secondary OA in DIPJs, but not in PIPJs. At joint level, progression of erosions was associated with both incident and progressive secondary OA, only in DIPJs. Infliximab treatment was associated with lower incident secondary OA in PIPJs [relative risk 0.5 (95% confidence interval 0.2, 1.0)], independent of decrease in inflammation.

Conclusion: Incident and progressive secondary OA in DIPJs over 3 years was associated with high inflammatory activity in RA. Infliximab treatment reduced incident secondary OA in PIPJs independent of decrease in inflammation, suggesting that anti-TNF-α therapy might be effective against secondary hand OA via other pathways than suppression of inflammation. Further studies in populations of primary hand OA are necessary to determine the role of anti-TNF-α in treatment of primary hand OA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Disease Progression
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Hand Joints*
  • Humans
  • Infliximab
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology
  • Osteoarthritis / prevention & control*
  • Radiography
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Infliximab
  • Methotrexate