Biological Dose Tapering in Daily Clinical Practice: A 10 Year Follow-up Study

Reumatol Clin (Engl Ed). 2020 Sep-Oct;16(5 Pt 1):319-323. doi: 10.1016/j.reuma.2018.08.002. Epub 2018 Oct 11.
[Article in English, Spanish]


Objective: To describe practice patterns, long-term outcome, and related factors, in relation to biological therapies tapering in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in a well-controlled real-world setting.

Methods: An observational longitudinal retrospective 10-year study was conducted in all RA patients receiving biological agents in an RA clinic from May 2003 to October 2013. Biological treatment of patients with sustained DAS28<3.2 or SDAI<11 was tapered (dose down-titrated or interval widen) or discontinued as per practice protocol. Primary outcome of tapering was relapse, defined as an increase in DAS28≥1.2. Descriptive, survival analysis, and logistic regression analysis with first relapse as dependent variable were carried out.

Results: Of 193 RA patients on biological treatment (mean age 54±14 years, 81% women), tapering was applied in 106 (55%) and discontinuation in 34 (17.6%). During follow-up 38 patients relapsed (62%). Rate of relapse was 10% at 6 months, 19% at 12 months, 33.2% at 2 years and 50% after 5 years. Mean time in dose reduction was 4.5 years [95% confidence interval (95% CI): 3.7-5.3]. Six patients (15.7%) did not respond after reinstatement of full dose of biologic. In the multivariate analysis, pain [OR=1.26 (95% CI: 1.11-1.43); P<.001] and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) [OR=1.01 (95% CI: 1.00-1.03); P=.011] at baseline were associated with relapse after tapering.

Conclusions: Tapering may be considered a long-term option in RA patients on biologics and low disease activity, especially if low ESR and pain scores are present at baseline; treatment reinstatement could be considered a safe option in case of relapse.

Keywords: Adalimumab; Ajuste de dosis; Artritis reumatoide; Clinical practice; Dose down-titration; Dose optimization; Etanercept; Infliximab; Optimización de la dosis; Práctica clínica; Rheumatoid arthritis; Rituximab; Tocilizumab.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / administration & dosage*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use
  • Antirheumatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Biological Factors / administration & dosage*
  • Biological Factors / therapeutic use
  • Drug Tapering*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Biological Factors