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Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2003 May-Jun;21(3):327-32.

Treatment of early RA in clinical practice: a comparative study of two different DMARD/corticosteroid options.

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Section of Rheumatology, Helsingborgs Lasarett, Helsingborg, Sweden.



To study the outcome in clinical practice of first DMARD and/or corticosteroid (CS) treatment in patients with recent onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


245 patients with active RA, not previously treated with DMARDs or CS, were randomised to one of two treatment groups, T1 = 7.5-15 mg of prednisolone (PRE) daily for one to three months followed, if needed, by methotrexate (MTX) in a weekly dose of 5-15 mg in addition to the lowest possible dose of PRE or T2 = sulfasalazine (SAL), supplemented with lowest possible CS dose if needed.


The EULAR individual response criteria were applied and remission was defined as a final DAS28 < 2.6. Function was assessed by the HAQ and radiographic progression by Larsen scores. A patient who managed to remain on the allocated treatment for two years was described as a "completer".


After 2 years of treatment, 70% of the patients in T1 and 63% in T2 were responders (30% and 33% "good responders", respectively). In T1 29% and in T2 19% were in remission. There was a significant functional improvement in both groups but radiographic progression occurred. The mean decrease in HAQ and increase in the Larsen score were similar in the two groups. One-third of the patients were non-completers, 19% from T1 and 47% from T2. Non-completers had, compared with completers, a significantly lower rate of individual response and remission. Completers and non-completers had similar functional improvement and similar radiological progression.


Individual response and remission was reduced in patients who did not complete their first DMARD/CS treatment option. Treatment failures were significantly more frequent in the sulfasalazine plus optional CS than in the CS plus optional methotrexate treatment group.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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