Objective. To examine in detail the outcomes of biologic DMARD (bDMARD) discontinuation while in remission occurring in daily clinical practice settings. We examined a multicentre longitudinal registry of RA patients.
Methods. We utilized data from the NinJa multicenter registry in Japan. Patients who used bDMARDs and had one or more successive visits in remission (defined by the clinical disease activity index (CDAI) ≤2.8) before discontinuation were included. The outcome of failing bDMARD-free disease control was defined as a composite of the following: re-use of bDMARDs, intensification of non-biologic DMARDs or of oral glucocorticoids, or loss of CDAI remission.
Results. Among 1037 patients who initially achieved remission on bDMARDs, 46 patients discontinued bDMARDs while remaining in remission. Of these 46 subjects, 41 (89.1%) were female, the median disease duration was 6.0 years and 31 (70.5%) had reported radiographical erosions. At the baseline, 27 (58.7%) used MTX and 19 (41.3%) used oral glucocorticoids. The bDMARD-free remission failure rate was estimated to be 67.4% at 1 year and 78.3% at 2 years. Loss of remission and reuse of bDMARDs were the more common reasons for failure. Lower CDAI within the remission range was associated with fewer failures.
Conclusion. We found a high rate of failing bDMARD-free CDAI remission, indicating difficulty of maintaining disease control, even in patients who were in remission. Modification of non-biologic treatment was observed in some of the patients who remained in remission. Considering the cost of bDMARDs, such strategies for maintaining disease control after bDMARD discontinuation may be an important option.