Radiographic progression in early rheumatoid arthritis patients following initial combination versus step-up treat-to-target therapy in daily clinical practice: results from the DREAM registry

Laura M.M. Steunebrink (Corresponding Author), Letty G.A. Steunenberg-Versteeg, Harald E. Vonkeman, Peter M. ten Klooster, Monique Hoekstra, Mart A.F.J. van de Laar

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Early and intensive targeted treatment with disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) has been shown to lead to substantial reductions in disease activity and radiograph damage in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The aim of this quasi-experimental study was to compare the first-year radiographic progression rates between a treat-to-target (T2 T) strategy with initial combination therapy (strategy II, started in 2012) versus an initial step-up monotherapy (strategy I, started in 2006).
A total of 128 patients from strategy II was individually matched with 128 patients from strategy I on sex, age (± 5 yrs.) and baseline disease activity (± 0.5 on the DAS28). Differences in radiographic progression (Sharp/van der Heijde) scores (SHS) and the number of patients experiencing a minimal clinically important difference (MCID; ≥ 5 SHS points) between both strategies were tested with Mann Whitney U and chi-square tests. Next, linear and logistic regression analyses were performed to examine which baseline variables were associated with radiographic progression scores and the probability of experiencing an MCID within 1 year.
Patients with initial combination therapy had slightly higher baseline disease activity scores and pain scores, but better mental health scores. Patients with initial monotherapy had significantly more, and more frequently clinically relevant, radiographic progression after 1 year. Experiencing a MCID was independently associated with fewer tender joints (p = 0.050) and higher erythrocyte sedimentation rate (p = 0.015) at baseline.
Treating early RA patients with initial combination therapy results in better radiographic outcomes than initial monotherapy in daily clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Rheumatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2018


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