Background: To get insight in the prevalence of high, or low/no serum infliximab trough levels in patients with low disease activity and if serum trough levels are stable and reliable longitudinally we conducted a prospective cohort study
Methods: In a longitudinal, observational cohort of RA patients treated with infliximab for at least 6 months, treatment interval, DAS28, infliximab trough levels and anti-infliximab antibodies were assessed. Prevalence of low (<1 mg/l) and high (>5 mg/l) infliximab serum trough levels and anti-infliximab antibodies was recorded. Relationship of a change in anti-infliximab antibodies and treatment interval was described. Reliability of consecutive infliximab serum trough levels and anti-infliximab antibodies in patients with stable DAS28 and treatment was analysed with Spearman correlation and kappa-analysis.
Results: 147 patients with a mean disease duration of 11 years (sd7) and DAS28 of 3.5 (sd1.3) at baseline were followed during 1.5 years. Inter-individual variability in infliximab levels in patients with low DAS28 was high (median 1.4 mg/L, IQR 3.35), with 31% (95%CI: 20-42%) having low (<1 mg/L) and 14% (95%CI 5-22) high trough levels (>5 mg/L). Interestingly also in RA patients with DAS28 ≤ 3.2, anti-infliximab antibodies were found in one-third of the patients, with half of them having antibodies every visit during a median of more than one year. Agreement for consecutive measurements of serum trough levels and anti-infliximab antibodies was high in stable patients: r = 0.97 (p = 0.00001) and kappa = 1.0 (SE 0.14) Anti-infliximab antibody appearance was influenced by interval increases (relative risk (RR) 5.2, 2.6-10.7), but patients still showed low infliximab levels.
Conclusions: Low (and high) infliximab serum trough levels are prevalent, interestingly also in patients with low disease activity. Consecutive measurements of serum trough levels and anti-infliximab antibodies are reliable in stable patients. These test could be used to lower or stop infliximab in selected patients.