Objective: To compare radiographic outcomes in patients with active early erosive rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who were treated with methotrexate (MTX) and gold sodium thiomalate (GSTM).
Methods: A total of 174 patients from two centres were randomly assigned to receive weekly i.m. injections for 12 months of either 15 mg MTX or 50 mg GSTM in a double-blind fashion. Radiographic evaluations including standardized scoring of 38 joints of the hands, wrists and forefeet, and count of eroded joints, were carried out at baseline and after 6 and 12 months in all patients, including withdrawals.
Results: An intention-to-treat analysis revealed no statistically significant difference in the progression of radiographic scores between treatment groups after 6 months (3.4 with MTX vs 2.6 with GSTM, P = 0.66) and after 12 months (6.0 vs 4.8, P = 0.44). A similar pattern was observed for the number of joints with erosions. The slope of radiographic progression was significantly reduced in the second half-year compared to the first 6 months in both groups. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein at baseline, and the presence of rheumatoid factor (RF), were the main predictors of progression in bivariate analysis. RF remained as the only predictor for radiographic outcome in multivariable analysis.
Conclusion: In parallel to clinical improvement, both GSTM and MTX reduce the slope of radiographic progression in patients with active erosive RA.