Drug therapy of the idiopathic inflammatory myopathies: predictors of response to prednisone, azathioprine, and methotrexate and a comparison of their efficacy

Am J Med. 1993 Apr;94(4):379-87. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(93)90148-i.


Purpose: To identify factors associated with responses to treatment with prednisone, methotrexate, or azathioprine in patients with idiopathic inflammatory myopathy, and to compare the efficacy of these drugs.

Patients and methods: Data were collected on 113 adult patients meeting criteria for definite idiopathic inflammatory myopathy in this retrospective cohort study. Patients were categorized as responding completely, partially, or not at all to each therapeutic trial based upon clinical and laboratory criteria.

Results: Clinical group, presence of certain myositis-specific autoantibodies, and time from disease onset to diagnosis influenced rates of complete clinical response to these therapeutic agents. Patients with inclusion body myositis responded comparatively poorly to prednisone and the other drugs: 43% had no clinical response to prednisone and none responded completely to any medication. Patients with autoantibodies to aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases or to signal recognition particle proteins were likely to respond partially, but not completely, to prednisone. No patient with a long delay to diagnosis (greater than 18 months) responded completely, compared with 34% of those with a short delay (less than 3 months). A patient's response to the first course of prednisone predicted subsequent responses to prednisone and to azathioprine better than response to methotrexate. Men responded to methotrexate better than women. Among certain subgroups of patients, responses to methotrexate were better than to either azathioprine or retreatment with prednisone.

Conclusion: Determining the clinical group, autoantibody status, and time from disease onset to diagnosis of patients with myositis provides useful information in predicting clinical responses to therapy, and these factors should be considered in designing future therapeutic trials. Methotrexate therapy may be superior to either azathioprine or further steroid treatment alone in certain patients who do not respond completely to an initial adequate course of prednisone.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Azathioprine / administration & dosage
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inclusion Bodies
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / administration & dosage
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use*
  • Myositis / blood
  • Myositis / classification
  • Myositis / drug therapy*
  • Prednisone / administration & dosage
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use*
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Autoantibodies
  • Azathioprine
  • Prednisone
  • Methotrexate