Predictors of response to TNF inhibitors in rheumatoid arthritis: an individual patient data pooled analysis of randomised controlled trials

RMD Open. 2021 Nov;7(3):e001882. doi: 10.1136/rmdopen-2021-001882.


Objective: To identify patient characteristics associated with responsiveness to tumour necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFi) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Materials and methods: Individual patient data from 29 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the efficacy of a TNFi versus placebo or conventional therapy were obtained. Response to treatment was assessed in subgroups according to the following baseline characteristics: smoking status, physical activity, sex, age, body mass index, autoantibody profile, disease duration, high initial disease activity defined by Disease Activity Score on 28 joints (DAS28)(C reactive protein (CRP)) >5.1. The primary outcome was the between-treatment group difference in DAS28(CRP) change from baseline to 6 months. The secondary endpoints were the between-treatment group difference in final DAS28(CRP) measured until 6 months and EULAR response criteria until 6 months. Data from each RCT were then pooled by the Mantel-Haenszel method using a random effects model. A linear metaregression was also carried out on two data-sharing platforms separately to support the results.

Results: Individual data of 11 617 patients from 29 RCTs were analysed. Until 6 months, a significantly higher EULAR non-response rate was observed in obese patients (OR 0.52 vs 0.36 for non-obese, p=0.01). A multivariable regression model performed on 7457 patients indicated that patients treated by TNFi had a final DAS28(CRP) decreased by 0.02 for each year of disease duration (p<0.001), and a 0.21 decreased for patients with a baseline DAS28(CRP) >5.1 (p<0.001).

Conclusions: In RA, patients who are more responsive to TNFi are those who are non-obese, have a long disease duration and have a high initial disease activity.

Keywords: arthritis; biological therapy; rheumatoid; tumor necrosis factor inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / drug therapy
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibitors


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibitors
  • C-Reactive Protein