Prediction of flare following remission and treatment withdrawal in early rheumatoid arthritis: post hoc analysis of a phase IIIb trial with abatacept

Arthritis Res Ther. 2022 Feb 16;24(1):47. doi: 10.1186/s13075-022-02735-8.


Background: Drug-free remission is a desirable goal in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for both patients and clinicians. The aim of this post hoc analysis was to investigate whether clinical and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) variables in patients with early RA who achieved remission with methotrexate and/or abatacept at 12 months could predict disease flare following treatment withdrawal.

Methods: In the AVERT study of abatacept in early RA, patients with low disease activity at month 12 entered a 12-month period with all treatment discontinued (withdrawal, WD). This post hoc analysis assessed predictors of disease flare at WD+6months (mo) and WD+12mo of patients with Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28)-defined remission (DAS28[C-reactive protein (CRP)] <2.6) at withdrawal using univariate and multivariable regression models. Predictors investigated included the Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disability Index (HAQ-DI), pain, Patient Global Assessment; MRI synovitis, erosion, bone edema, and combined (synovitis + bone edema) inflammation scores.

Results: Remission was achieved by 172 patients; 100 (58%) and 113 (66%) patients had experienced a flare at WD+6mo and WD+12mo, respectively. In univariate analyses, higher HAQ-DI and MRI synovitis, erosion, bone edema, and combined inflammation scores at WD were identified as potential predictors of flare (P ≤ 0.01). In multivariable analysis, high scores at WD for HAQ-DI and MRI erosion were confirmed as independent predictors of flare at WD+6mo and WD+12mo (P < 0.01).

Conclusion: In patients with early RA achieving clinical remission, patient function (HAQ-DI), and MRI measures of bone damage (erosion) predicted disease flare 6 and 12 months after treatment withdrawal. These variables may help identify patients with early RA in clinical remission as candidates for successful treatment withdrawal.

Trial registration:, NCT01142726 (date of registration: June 11, 2010).

Keywords: Abatacept; Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs); Flare; Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Rheumatoid arthritis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abatacept* / therapeutic use
  • Antirheumatic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / drug therapy
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Remission Induction
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Abatacept

Associated data