To assess the risk of losing remission, low disease activity (LDA) or radiographic progression in the case of (1) discontinuing or (2) tapering doses of biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs) compared with continuation of the initial treatment regimen in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients with remission or LDA.Materials and methods
A systematic literature analysis was carried out through May 2017 on the PubMed, Embase, Cochrane and international congress databases, selecting controlled trials comparing bDMARDs discontinuation/tapering versus continuation in RA patients with remission or LDA. The meta-analysis assessed the risk ratio (RR) and 95% CI of losing remission or LDA and the risk of radiographic progression after (1) discontinuing and (2) tapering doses of bDMARDs versus continuing the initial treatment.Results
The meta-analysis comparing bDMARDs discontinuation versus continuation performed on nine trials showed an increased risk of losing remission (RR (95% CI)=1.97(1.43 to 2.73), P<0.0001) or LDA (RR (95% CI)=2.24(1.52 to 3.30), P<0.0001) and an increased risk of radiographic progression (RR (95% CI)=1.09(1.02 to 1.17), P=0.01) in case of bDMARD discontinuation. The meta-analysis comparing bDMARDs tapering versus continuation performed on 11 trials showed an increased risk of losing remission (RR (95% CI)=1.23(1.06 to 1.42), P=0.006) but no increased risk of losing LDA (RR (95% CI)=1.02 (0.85 to 1.23), P=0.81) nor any increased risk of radiographic progression (RR (95% CI)=1.09(0.94 to 1.26), P=0.26) in case of bDMARD tapering.Conclusion
Discontinuation of bDMARDs leads to an increased risk of losing remission or LDA and radiographic progression, while tapering doses of bDMARDs does not increase the risk of relapse (LDA) or radiographic progression, even though there is an increased risk of losing remission.