Intensive intervention can lead to a treatment holiday from biological DMARDs in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Drugs. 2014 Dec;74(18):2129-39. doi: 10.1007/s40265-014-0323-4.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation and joint destruction that causes significant morbidity and mortality. However, the combined use of methotrexate (MTX), a synthetic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (sDMARD) and biological DMARDs (bDMARDs) has revolutionized treatment of RA and clinical remission or low disease activity (LDA) are now realistic targets, achieved by a large proportion of RA patients. We are now in a position to evaluate if it is possible to maintain remission or LDA while at the same time reducing the burden of treatment on the patient and healthcare system. Data are emerging from large, well-conducted studies designed to answer this question, shedding light on which patient populations and treatment algorithms can survive treatment discontinuation or tapering with low risk of disease flare. For early RA, approximately half of early RA patients could discontinue TNF-targeted bDMARDs without clinical flare and functional impairment after obtaining clinical remission by bDMARDs with MTX. In contrast, for established RA, fewer patients sustained remission or LDA after the discontinuation of bDMARDs and "deep remission" at the discontinuation was a key factor to maintain the treatment holiday of bDMARDs. Thus, this article provides a brief outline on withdrawing or tapering bDMARDs once patients have achieved remission or LDA in RA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Medication Therapy Management / trends
  • Methotrexate / pharmacology
  • Patient Acuity
  • Remission Induction / methods*
  • Withholding Treatment / trends*


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Methotrexate