Objective: To assess the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of sulfasalazine (SSZ) in the treatment of juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA).
Methods: We conducted a 24-week randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter study of patients with active JCA of both oligoarticular and polyarticular onset. Patients were treated with a dosage of 50 mg/kg/day of SSZ (maximum 2,000 mg/day) or placebo. The efficacy variables were joint scores, physician's, parents', and patient's overall assessments, and laboratory parameters of inflammation.
Results: Of the 69 patients enrolled, 52 (75%) completed the trial. Six patients (18%) withdrew from the placebo group, and 11 (31%) withdrew from the SSZ group (P = 0.18). In the intention-to-treat analysis of end point efficacy, between-group differences were significant for the overall articular severity score (P = 0.02), all global assessments (P = 0.01), and the laboratory parameters (P < 0.001). Adverse events occurred more frequently in the SSZ group and were the main reason for withdrawal (P < 0.001), but in all instances, these events were transient or reversible upon cessation of treatment.
Conclusion: The results of this first placebo-controlled study show that SSZ is effective and safe in the treatment of children with oligoarticular- and polyarticular-onset JCA, although it was not well tolerated in one-third of the patients.