Objective: To evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of oral methotrexate (MTX) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in a long-term prospective trial.
Methods: One hundred twenty-three patients with RA who completed a 9-month multicenter randomized trial comparing MTX and auranofin enrolled in this 5-year prospective study of MTX.
Results: Significant (P = 0.0001) improvement compared with baseline was noted in all clinical disease variables, functional status, and the Westergren erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). "Marked improvement" occurred in 87 (71%) and 85 (69%) of the patients, respectively, in the joint pain/tenderness index and the joint swelling index at the last evaluable visit. Forty-four patients (36%) withdrew during the study. Eight (7%) withdrew due to lack of efficacy, and 8 (7%) due to adverse experiences, including 1 patient with cirrhosis. At 5 years, 64% of patients were still taking MTX and completed the study.
Conclusion: This large prospective study of long-term MTX treatment demonstrates sustained clinical response and improvement in the Westergren ESR and functional assessment scores, with an acceptable toxicity profile.