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Ann Rheum Dis. 2009 Jul;68(7):1146-52. doi: 10.1136/ard.2007.087106. Epub 2008 Sep 15.

Efficacy, safety and patient-reported outcomes of combination etanercept and sulfasalazine versus etanercept alone in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blind randomised 2-year study.

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  • 1Service d'Immuno-Rhumatologie, Hopital Lapeyronie, Montpellier, France.



To determine the efficacy and safety of etanercept and etanercept plus sulfasalazine versus sulfasalazine in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) despite sulfasalazine therapy.


Patients were randomly assigned to etanercept (25 mg twice weekly; sulfasalazine was discontinued at baseline), etanercept plus sulfasalazine (unchanged regimen of 2-3 g/day) or sulfasalazine in a double-blind, randomised, 2-year study in adult patients with active RA despite sulfasalazine therapy. Efficacy was assessed using the American College of Rheumatology criteria, disease activity scores (DAS) and patient-reported outcomes (PRO).


Demographic variables and baseline disease characteristics were comparable among treatment groups; mean DAS 5.1, 5.2 and 5.1 for etanercept (n = 103), etanercept plus sulfasalazine (n = 101) and sulfasalazine (n = 50), respectively. Withdrawal due to lack of efficacy was highest with sulfasalazine (26 (52%) vs 6 (6%) for either etanercept group, p<0.001). Patients receiving etanercept or etanercept plus sulfasalazine had a more rapid initial response, which was sustained at 2 years, than those receiving sulfasalazine: mean DAS 2.8, 2.5 versus 4.5, respectively (p<0.05); ACR 20 response was achieved by 67%, 77% versus 34% of patients, respectively (p<0.01) Overall, PRO followed a similar pattern; a clinically significant improvement in health assessment questionnaire was achieved by 76%, 78% versus 40% of patients, respectively (p<0.01). Commonly reported adverse events occurring in the etanercept groups were injection site reactions and pharyngitis/laryngitis (p<0.01).


Etanercept and etanercept plus sulfasalazine are efficacious for the long-term management of patients with RA. The addition of etanercept or substitution with etanercept should be considered as treatment options for patients not adequately responding to sulfasalazine.

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