Objective: To evaluate remission rates and therapeutic strategies in the routine care of early rheumatoid arthritis.
Methods: Between 2010 and 2013, a total of 1,301 patients with early arthritis were followed by 89 rheumatologists for up to 2 years in an early arthritis cohort (CAPEA). Complete 2-year data are available for 669 patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Results: Ninety-three percent of patients were diagnosed with a moderate or high disease activity score (DAS28 > 3.2). Within 6 months, 40 % were in clinical remission (DAS28 < 2.6) and 21 % reached a low disease activity score (DAS28 > 2.6 to < 3.2). This proportion did not substantially increase during the 2-year follow-up. Methotrexate was the standard first-line treatment in 82 % of patients. During follow-up, 10 % were treated with a combination of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and 12 % with biological agents. In 60 % of the patients who did not reach remission within 3 months (and 54 % of patients without remission by 6 months), treatment was not changed. At the beginning, 77 % of patients were treated with glucocorticoids at different starting doses (26 % < 7.5 mg, 29 % 7.5-20 mg, and 45 % ≥ 20 mg of prednisolone per day). After 2 years, 47 % remained on glucocorticoids.
Conclusion: While 40 % of patients achieved clinical remission through standard care within 6 months, disease activity remained moderate to high in 37 % of patients at 2 years. In these patients a more consistent application of treatment may have increased the response rates.
Keywords: Antirheumatic agents; Combination drug therapy; Glucocorticoids; Prognosis; Treatment outcome.