Certolizumab pegol in combination with dose-optimised methotrexate in DMARD-naïve patients with early, active rheumatoid arthritis with poor prognostic factors: 1-year results from C-EARLY, a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase III study

Ann Rheum Dis. 2017 Jan;76(1):96-104. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2015-209057. Epub 2016 May 10.


Objectives: To assess the efficacy and safety of certolizumab pegol (CZP)+dose-optimised methotrexate (MTX) versus placebo (PBO)+dose-optimised MTX in inducing and sustaining clinical remission in DMARD-naïve patients with moderate-to-severe, active, progressive rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with poor prognostic factors over 52 weeks.

Methods: DMARD-naïve patients with ≤1 year of active RA were randomised (3:1) in a double-blind manner to CZP (400 mg Weeks 0, 2, 4, then 200 mg Q2W to Week 52)+MTX or PBO+MTX (the mean optimised-MTX dose=21 and 22 mg/week, respectively). Sustained remission (sREM) and sustained low disease activity (sLDA; DAS28(ESR)<2.6 and DAS28(ESR)≤3.2, respectively, at both Weeks 40 and 52) were the primary and secondary endpoints.

Results: Patients were randomised to CZP+MTX (n=660) and PBO+MTX (n=219). At Week 52, significantly more patients assigned to CZP+MTX compared with PBO+MTX achieved sREM (28.9% vs 15.0%, p<0.001) and sLDA (43.8% vs 28.6%, p<0.001). Inhibition of radiographic progression and improvements in physical functioning were significantly greater for CZP+MTX versus PBO+MTX (van der Heijde modified total Sharp score (mTSS) mean absolute change from baseline (CFB): 0.2 vs 1.8, p<0.001, rate of mTSS non-progressors: 70.3% vs 49.7%, p<0.001; least squares (LS) mean CFB in Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disability Index (HAQ-DI): -1.00 vs -0.82, p<0.001). Incidence of adverse events (AEs) and serious AEs was similar between treatment groups. Infection was the most frequent AE, with higher incidence for CZP+MTX (71.8/100 patient-years (PY)) versus PBO+MTX (52.7/100 PY); the rate of serious infection was similar between CZP+MTX (3.3/100 PY) and PBO+MTX (3.7/100 PY).

Conclusions: CZP+dose-optimised MTX treatment of DMARD-naïve early RA resulted in significantly more patients achieving sREM and sLDA, improved physical function and inhibited structural damage compared with PBO+dose-optimised MTX.

Trial registration number: NCT01519791.

Keywords: Anti-TNF; DMARDs (biologic); Early Rheumatoid Arthritis; Methotrexate.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antirheumatic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Certolizumab Pegol / adverse effects
  • Certolizumab Pegol / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infections / chemically induced
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / administration & dosage
  • Methotrexate / adverse effects
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Radiography
  • Remission Induction


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Certolizumab Pegol
  • Methotrexate

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01519791