Objectives: Tumour necrosis factor inhibition plus methotrexate is believed to inhibit radiographic progression independent of inflammation. This analysis assessed whether these protective effects are exerted on bone (joint erosion; JE) and/or cartilage (joint space narrowing; JSN), and what the independent effects of JE/JSN progression are on longer-term patient-reported outcomes.
Methods: PREMIER was a 2-year, randomised, controlled trial of adalimumab plus methotrexate (ADA+MTX) versus the monotherapies. The impact of treatment on the relationships between time-averaged disease activity (TA-DAS28(CRP)) and changes in JE/JSN and associations of JE/JSN with the disability index of the health assessment questionnaire (HAQ-DI) at baseline and weeks 52 and 104 were assessed through non-parametric approaches of analysis of variance and quantile regression. JE/JSN association with employment status was evaluated at baseline and weeks 52 and 104 through logistic regression.
Results: Increasing tertiles of TA-DAS28(CRP) were associated with JE and JSN progression in the monotherapy groups, a phenomenon largely absent in ADA+MTX-treated patients. Although JSN was not associated with HAQ-DI at baseline, it was at 52 and 104 weeks. In contrast, JE was not associated with HAQ-DI at any time point examined. Odds of being employed at baseline, 52 weeks and 104 weeks were significantly associated with lower JSN, but not JE, scores.
Conclusions: ADA+MTX inhibited both JE and JSN progression independently of disease activity. JSN played a more prominent role in patient-reported outcomes than JE. Preventing the onset or worsening of JSN probably represents a critical aspect of effective disease management of early rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00195663.