Objective: To determine whether sulfasalazine (SSZ) at a dosage of 2,000 mg/day is effective in the treatment of reactive arthritis (ReA) that has been unresponsive to nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) therapy.
Methods: One hundred thirty-four patients with ReA who had failed to respond to NSAIDs were recruited from 19 clinics, randomized (double-blind) to receive either SSZ or placebo, and followed up for 36 weeks. The definition of treatment response was based on joint pain/tenderness and swelling scores and physician and patient global assessments.
Results: Longitudinal analysis revealed improvement in the patients taking SSZ compared with those taking placebo, which appeared at 4 weeks and continued through the trial (P = 0.02). At the end of treatment, response rates were 62.3% for SSZ treatment compared with 47.7% for placebo treatment. The Westergren erythrocyte sedimentation rate declined more with SSZ treatment than with placebo (P < 0.0001). Adverse reactions were fewer than expected and were mainly due to nonspecific gastrointestinal complaints.
Conclusion: SSZ at a dosage of 2,000 mg/day is well tolerated and effective in patients with chronically active ReA.