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Br J Rheumatol. 1996 Feb;35(2):150-4.

A randomized double-blind controlled trial of sulphasalazine combined with pulses of methylprednisolone or placebo in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

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Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Escola Paulista de Medicina, Brazil.


Thirty-eight patients with rheumatoid arthritis meeting American College of Rheumatism (ACR) criteria were entered in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of 6 months to assess whether monthly treatment with i.v. methylprednisolone (MP) enhances or accelerates the efficacy of sulphasalazine (SSZ). All patients had failed at least one second-line agent and were randomized to receive SSZ (2g/day) and pulses of MP (5 mg/kg), or SSZ+ (2 g/day) and pulses of saline (SA). A single infusion of 2 h was carried out in both groups for a total of three times (0, 1 and 2 months). The two groups were comparable at baseline regarding their demographic and clinical characteristics. Disease activity was evaluated every 2 months by means of: (1) joint count; (2) morning stiffness; (3) grip strength; (4) visual analogue pain score; (5) health assessment questionnaire; and (6) erythrocyte sedimentation rate. All outcome measures improved significantly in both groups (P < 0.001). Evaluation at each follow-up visit showed no significant differences between the groups in any of the adverse effects attributable to SSZ therapy (one SA vs two MP). Adverse effects attributable to SA/MP therapy were rare and mild. We concluded that repeated pulses of MP during the first 3 months of treatment did not improve the efficacy of SSZ. Therefore, there is no justification for using MP in this way during the induction phase of SSZ therapy.

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