Objectives: To determine whether patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (ERA) have cardiovascular disease (CVD) that is modifiable with disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) therapy, comparing first-line etanercept (ETN) + methotrexate (MTX) with MTX strategy.
Methods: Patients from a phase IV ERA trial randomised to ETN+MTX or MTX strategy±month 6 escalation to ETN+MTX, and with no CVD and maximum one traditional risk factor underwent cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) at baseline, years 1 and 2. Thirty matched controls underwent CMR. Primary outcome measure was aortic distensibility (AD) between controls and ERA, and baseline to year 1 AD change in ERA. Secondary analyses between and within ERA groups performed. Additional outcome measures included left ventricular (LV) mass and myocardial extracellular volume (ECV).
Results: Eighty-one patients recruited. In ERA versus controls, respectively, baseline (geometric mean, 95% CI) AD was significantly lower (3.0×10-3 mm Hg-1 (2.7-3.3) vs 4.4×10-3 mm Hg-1 (3.7-5.2), p<0.001); LV mass significantly lower (78.2 g (74.0-82.7), n=81 vs 92.9 g (84.8-101.7), n=30, p<0.01); and ECV increased (27.1% (26.4-27.9), n=78 vs 24.9% (23.8-26.1), n=30, p<0.01). Across all patients, AD improved significantly from baseline to year 1 (3.0×10-3 mm Hg-1 (2.7-3.4) to 3.6×10-3 mm Hg-1 (3.1-4.1), respectively, p<0.01), maintained at year 2. The improvement in AD did not differ between the two treatment arms and disease activity state (Disease Activity Score with 28 joint count)-erythrocyte sedimentation rate-defined responders versus non-responders.
Conclusion: We report the first evidence of vascular and myocardial abnormalities in an ERA randomised controlled trial cohort and show improvement with DMARD therapy. The type of DMARD (first-line tumour necrosis factor-inhibitors or MTX) and clinical response to therapy did not affect CVD markers.
Trial registration number: ISRCTN: ISRCTN89222125; ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01295151.
Keywords: arthritis; atherosclerosis; cardiovascular diseases; magnetic resonance imaging; rheumatoid; tumor necrosis factors.
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