In the second Computer-Assisted Management in Early Rheumatoid Arthritis trial, patients had started with methotrexate and 10 mg prednisone (MTX+pred) or placebo (MTX+plac). After the trial, prednisone was tapered and stopped, if possible. The objective was to compare, during the post-trial follow-up between the two former strategy groups, initiation of the first biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (bDMARD), radiographic outcome and onset of glucocorticoid (GC)-related comorbidities.Methods
Data on prednisone and bDMARD use and onset of GC-related comorbidities were collected retrospectively. Sharp/van der Heijde scoring was performed. Data were analysed using Fisher’s exact and Mann-Whitney U tests.Results
Of 218 patients post-trial follow-up data were available. The maximum follow-up time was 11.8 years. Fewer patients initiated a first bDMARD in the former MTX+pred compared with the former MTX+plac strategy group: 31% vs 50%, p=0.003. At the 2 year post-trial follow-up, the median erosion score was significantly lower in the former MTX+pred versus former MTX+plac strategy group: 0 (range 0–0) versus 0 (0–2), p=0.002. No significant differences between the former strategy groups in the onset of GC-related comorbidities during the post-trial follow-up were found.Conclusion
Addition of 10 mg prednisone daily to an MTX-based treatment strategy in early rheumatoid arthritis results in a lower initiation rate of a first bDMARD and significantly better radiographic outcomes, yet does not result in more GC-related comorbidities.