This study sought to analyze the benefit of an early induction therapy with a biological disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (bDMARD) during the first year of treatment with a 5-year follow-up in early rheumatoid arthritis (ERA).
We included ERA patients from the UCLouvain Brussels cohort who met the American College of Rheumatology (ACR)/European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) 2010 classification criteria and were naïve to DMARDs. ERA patients were divided into two groups according to whether they received an induction bDMARD therapy or a standard therapy with methotrexate (MTX). Clinical response after the induction treatment at 6 and 12 months followed by a MTX maintenance therapy at 36 and 60 months was evaluated.
Data from 470 ERA patients were collected, 189 received a bDMARD and 281 initiated MTX alone. In the bDMARD group, disease activity and HAQ were higher at baseline. A total of 391 patients were followed up to 5 years. We then divided each group into two subgroups according to the last treatment they received at 5 years: bDMARD > MTX (n = 95), bDMARD > bDMARD (n = 59); MTX > MTX (n = 134), MTX > bDMARD (n = 103). During the induction, we observed a clinical response with a large number of patients achieving DAS28-CRP remission. According to a treat-to-target (T2T) approach, remission rate was stable on MTX monotherapy or rescued by the addition or prolongation of a bDMARD. Interestingly, bDMARD followed by a MTX maintenance therapy experienced a stable and sustained DAS28-CRP remission rate in 53% of the ERA patients at year 5.
Long-term remission is an achievable goal in ERA. Our results suggest that a bDMARD induction therapy followed by MTX maintenance therapy could be an interesting option.

© 2023. The Author(s).