SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  5. RESULTS
  6. DISCUSSION
  7. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  8. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  9. REFERENCES

Objective

To examine whether disease duration is an independent predictor of achieving remission in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients initiating therapy.

Methods

RA patients in the Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America registry newly prescribed a nonbiologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) or anti–tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) with at least one followup visit were identified. Achievement of remission was defined using the Clinical Disease Activity Index (CDAI; score ≤2.8) and 28-joint Disease Activity Score (DAS28; score <2.6) at any followup visit within one year; sustained remission was defined as remission during any two successive visits. Likelihood of remission was examined through logistic regression based on 5-year increments of disease duration, adjusting for baseline covariates.

Results

Among the 1,646 nonbiologic DMARD initiators, CDAI remission occurred in 21.3% of those with ≤5 years of disease duration, 19.6% with 6–10 years, and 13.5% with ≥11 years (P < 0.001); sustained remission occurred in 10.2%, 8.8%, and 2.5%, respectively (P < 0.001). Results were similar among the 3,179 anti-TNF initiators (CDAI remission in 22.3%, 17.7%, and 12.8%, respectively [P < 0.001]; CDAI sustained remission in 9.7%, 9.5%, and 4.2%, respectively [P < 0.001]). DAS28 results were similar in both groups. In adjusted analyses, an increase of disease duration by 5 years was associated with a reduced likelihood of CDAI remission in nonbiologic DMARD (odds ratio [OR] 0.91, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.83–0.99) and anti-TNF initiators (OR 0.88, 95% CI 0.83–0.94). A similar result was seen for sustained remission using the CDAI (nonbiologic DMARD: OR 0.61, 95% CI 0.48–0.76; anti-TNF: OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.75–0.97).

Conclusion

Earlier treatment was associated with a greater likelihood of remission.


INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  5. RESULTS
  6. DISCUSSION
  7. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  8. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  9. REFERENCES

Remission, meaning the absence of disease activity, is the goal of therapy in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Earlier and more aggressive use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) is being advocated with the goal of achieving remission (1). For RA patients treated with nonbiologic DMARDs, including methotrexate, there is some evidence that drug responsiveness may be influenced by disease duration (2). Over the last decade, there has been increased attention to anti–tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) therapies and the potential impact they can have on remission. Anti-TNFs have demonstrated unprecedented efficacy for the treatment of RA (3–6). Clinical trials of anti-TNFs have been performed demonstrating efficacy for patients with both early and established RA (5–7). However, because direct comparisons of response rates across trials with anti-TNFs in early versus established disease are not appropriate, it is unclear if the magnitude of response or rates of achievement of remission are superior for patients with a shorter duration of disease in a more typical clinical setting. We sought to examine the relationship between disease duration and achievement of remission and whether that was influenced by the class of treatment initiated. Specifically, we sought to compare the rates of remission stratified by disease duration in those initiating nonbiologic DMARDs and anti-TNF agents.

Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the a priori hypothesis that RA disease duration was an independent predictor of achieving remission within one year of treatment, regardless of DMARD class. We tested this hypothesis using a large US cohort of RA patients with a broad range of disease duration from the Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America (CORRONA) registry.

PATIENTS AND METHODS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  5. RESULTS
  6. DISCUSSION
  7. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  8. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  9. REFERENCES

Data source and population.

The CORRONA registry is a prospective observational cohort of patients with arthritis who are enrolled by participating rheumatologists in both academic and private practice sites; the details have been previously published (8, 9). There were 17,424 patients with RA and 91,832 visits in the CORRONA registry database from October 1, 2001, to November 1, 2008. No disease activity or comorbidity exclusion criteria were required for RA patients enrolled into the consortium registry. For the purposes of this study, this analysis was restricted to patients who initiated a nonbiologic DMARD or anti-TNF therapy, were not in remission at the baseline visit, and who had at least one visit within one year from baseline (we did not require continued use of a nonbiologic DMARD or an anti-TNF to be included in the analyses). Patients who initiated a different DMARD (biologic or nonbiologic) after having discontinued one prior to the baseline visit were included in the study (i.e., patients with prior DMARD exposure). We did not exclude patients who discontinued the initiated agent during the 1-year observation period or patients who switched agents. Approvals for data collection and analyses were obtained for academic and private practice sites from local and central institutional review boards, respectively.

Measures and data collection.

Data were collected from both patients and their treating rheumatologists using standard clinical research forms, which gather information on disease severity and activity (including components of American College of Rheumatology [ACR] [10] and European League Against Rheumatism response criteria), medical comorbidities, use of medications, including nonbiologic and biologic DMARDs, and adverse events. Among the data elements collected in the registry relevant to this study are a 28 tender and swollen joint count, physician and patient global assessments of disease activity, patient assessment of pain, the modified Health Assessment Questionnaire (M-HAQ) assessing physical function, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). Acute-phase reactant data were recorded from laboratory tests obtained within 10 days of the clinical encounter, although collection of laboratory data is not mandated by the study protocol. Because the protocol does not mandate specific intervals between study visits, we included study visits within a 3-month time window of the 1-year study period. The scope of the data collected and comparison with other registries has been previously described (11).

Primary and secondary outcomes.

The baseline visit was defined as the visit when the agent (nonbiologic DMARD or anti-TNF therapy) was initiated or a visit prior to when the agent was started if the initiation occurred between visits. Patients who were in “remission” at baseline based on the Clinical Disease Activity Index (CDAI) and 28-joint Disease Activity Score (DAS28) were identified, and these patients were excluded from further analysis only when the analysis used the specific criteria for which they were defined to be in “remission” at baseline. We also limited the calculation of remission to patients with all of the components necessary for the specific remission criteria of interest.

The primary outcome for remission was the CDAI score ≤2.8 at any followup visit within one year of initiation. Because the ESR is not mandated at all study visits in the CORRONA registry, DAS28-defined remission (score <2.6 at any followup visit) was a secondary outcome. In addition, we evaluated for sustained remission, defined as remission during any two consecutive visits, not including the first (baseline) visit, within one year after initiation. These results were stratified by disease duration (≤5 years, 6 to 10 years, and ≥11 years).

Statistical analyses.

Patient clinical and demographic characteristics were compared among the 3 disease duration groups. For continuous measures, means and SDs were estimated and the overall statistical differences among all 3 groups were tested using analysis of variance, or F test. For dichotomous measures, percentages were estimated and Fisher's exact test was used to test statistical differences among the groups.

Unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (ORs) assessing the likelihood of remission as well as sustained remission after initiation based on disease duration (age was considered a continuous variable with patients grouped based on 5-year increments) were estimated using multivariable logistic regression models and were reported with estimated 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs). Covariates associated with remission were considered as possible confounders (12). These covariates included patient demographics (age, sex, race, education, and insurance status), calendar year of therapy initiation, RA disease duration, baseline disease activity, severity measures (M-HAQ, disability, morning stiffness, and fatigue), as well as current (concomitant prednisone and methotrexate) and prior medication usage (anti-TNFs and nonbiologic DMARDs). A backward stepwise approach was used to identify potential variables to include in the model. In addition, variables thought to influence the likelihood of remission from a clinical perspective were forced into the model, including age and sex. These models were run for both the CDAI and DAS28 remission outcomes. As sensitivity analyses, we examined the likelihood of remission and sustained remission in those who had never taken nonbiologic DMARDs and biologics at the time of initiation. We handled missing data using the most conservative approach without any value imputation. Patients with missing data for any of the variables in the final multivariate models were excluded from the models.

RESULTS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  5. RESULTS
  6. DISCUSSION
  7. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  8. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  9. REFERENCES

There were 1,646 patients who initiated a nonbiologic DMARD and 3,179 who initiated anti-TNF therapy as well as met inclusion criteria. The mean and median number of visits over the 1-year period was 2 for both of the groups. For analyzing sustained remission, we examined 54–59% of patients with at least 3 visits. The majority of patients stayed on their medications during the 1-year period (84–87% of nonbiologic DMARD initiators and 79–82% of anti-TNF initiators). Remission based on the CDAI over the 1-year followup period occurred in 18.3% of nonbiologic DMARD initiators and 17.6% of anti-TNF initiators, while sustained remission occurred in 7.2% and 7.6%, respectively, in those with 2 or more followup visits. When we limited the population to those in which a DAS28 could be calculated, DAS28 remission occurred in 14.4% and sustained remission occurred in 3.5% of nonbiologic users (n = 617). In anti-TNF initiators (n = 1,247), it was 20.0% and 7.9%, respectively.

The baseline characteristics of RA patients with early and established disease included in the evaluation of remission are shown in Table 1. Those with earlier RA were more likely to be younger and working. Among anti-TNF initiators, those with earlier disease were more likely to be receiving concomitant methotrexate. Greater disease duration was associated with more exposure to DMARDs. Among the anti-TNF initiators, there were no significant differences in the specific agent prescribed. Disease levels at baseline were generally comparable, with the exception of those with 6 to 10 years of RA who were more likely to have low disease activity as compared to the other disease duration groups for both the nonbiologic DMARD and anti-TNF initiators. Similar results of baseline characteristic comparisons were found when examining the anti-TNF initiators who had never taken biologics as well as when we compared RA patients who had 2 or more follow up visits, which was the sample used for the evaluation of sustained remission (data not shown).

Table 1. Baseline characteristics of patients included in the evaluation of remission stratified by rheumatoid arthritis disease duration*
 Nonbiologic DMARDs (never taken biologics)Anti-TNF initiators
≤5 years (n = 784)6–10 years (n = 285)≥11 years (n = 577)P≤5 years (n = 1,295)6–10 years (n = 615)≥11 years (n = 1,269)P
  • *

    Values are the mean ± SD unless otherwise indicated. DMARDs = disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs; anti-TNF = anti–tumor necrosis factor; VAS = visual analog scale; M-HAQ = modified Health Assessment Questionnaire; ESR = erythrocyte sedimentation rate; DAS28 = 28-joint Disease Activity Score; CDAI = Clinical Disease Activity Index; N/A = not applicable.

  • Patients sometimes reported >1 type of insurance.

  • Prior use represented prior nonbiologic DMARD use for the nonbiologic DMARD initiators and prior anti-TNF use for the anti-TNF initiators.

Demographics        
 Men, no. (%)197 (25.1)72 (25.3)144 (25.0)0.994283 (21.9)139 (22.6)256 (20.2)0.407
 Age, years56.9 ± 13.459.3 ± 12.664.4 ± 11.5< 0.00154.3 ± 13.654.1 ± 12.660.5 ± 11.5< 0.001
Race, no. (%)   0.530   0.973
 White631 (80.5)236 (82.8)485 (84.1) 1,084 (83.7)515 (83.7)1,053 (83.0) 
 African American54 (6.9)15 (5.3)33 (5.7) 62 (4.8)28 (4.6)61 (4.9) 
 Hispanic76 (9.7)22 (7.7)37 (6.4) 101 (7.8)46 (7.5)94 (7.4) 
 Asian7 (0.9)3 (1.1)4 (0.7) 15 (1.2)8 (1.3)15 (1.2) 
Education, no. (%)   0.025   0.429
 Some high school61 (7.8)18 (6.3)50 (8.7) 76 (5.9)40 (6.5)73 (5.8) 
 High school diploma312 (39.8)127 (44.6)268 (46.4) 498 (38.5)223 (36.3)512 (40.3) 
 College375 (47.8)122 (42.8)224 (38.8) 641 (49.5)312 (50.7)594 (46.8) 
Working status, no. (%)   < 0.001   < 0.001
 Full time331 (42.2)106 (37.2)105 (18.2) 581 (44.9)258 (42.0)300 (23.6) 
 Part time88 (11.2)24 (8.4)47 (8.1) 139 (10.7)60 (9.8)114 (9.0) 
 Not working111 (14.2)36 (12.6)81 (14.0) 160 (12.4)76 (12.4)202 (15.9) 
 Retired192 (24.5)70 (24.6)218 (37.8) 260 (20.1)108 (17.6)359 (28.3) 
 Disabled48 (6.1)44 (15.4)114 (19.8) 126 (9.7)102 (16.6)281 (22.1) 
Insurance, no. (%)        
 Private449 (73.2)171 (74.7)278 (64.1)0.002859 (81.7)386 (78.6)725 (70.5)< 0.001
 Medicare181 (29.5)83 (36.2)270 (62.2)< 0.001248 (23.6)125 (25.5)477 (46.4)< 0.001
 Medicaid49 (8.0)16 (7.0)50 (11.5)0.07253 (5.0)39 (7.9)106 (10.3)< 0.001
Clinical        
 Morning stiffness, hours1.4 ± 2.61.3 ± 2.11.6 ± 3.20.2491.6 ± 2.91.5 ± 2.91.5 ± 2.60.290
 Disease duration, years2.1 ± 1.67.8 ± 1.420.5 ± 9.0< 0.0012.5 ± 1.67.7 ± 1.520.3 ± 8.4< 0.001
 28 swollen joint count6.5 ± 6.45.5 ± 5.66.2 ± 6.00.0517.4 ± 6.76.9 ± 6.57.1 ± 6.30.254
 28 tender joint count5.8 ± 6.15.0 ± 6.04.8 ± 5.70.0086.8 ± 7.06.4 ± 6.86.6 ± 6.60.534
 Patient global assessment36.5 ± 25.438.0 ± 25.641.0 ± 25.30.00441.4 ± 25.642.2 ± 25.644.1 ± 26.20.022
 Patient VAS pain39.6 ± 26.639.4 ± 25.542.0 ± 25.70.20744.1 ± 25.944.2 ± 25.845.4 ± 26.40.396
 M-HAQ score0.4 ± 0.50.4 ± 0.50.5 ± 0.50.0060.5 ± 0.50.5 ± 0.50.6 ± 0.5< 0.001
 ESR, mm/hour25.6 ± 21.123.0 ± 18.728.2 ± 22.00.06924.3 ± 20.826.4 ± 22.829.0 ± 22.90.002
 DAS284.3 ± 1.44.2 ± 1.54.3 ± 1.40.6704.4 ± 1.44.5 ± 1.54.6 ± 1.50.093
 CDAI18.9 ± 12.917.1 ± 12.218.3 ± 12.30.10821.8 ± 13.721.0 ± 13.821.5 ± 13.10.504
Disease activity, no. (%)        
 High (CDAI score ≥22)374 (47.7)117 (41.1)253 (43.8)0.112744 (57.5)326 (53.0)730 (57.5)0.132
 Moderate (CDAI score 10–22)235 (30.0)86 (30.2)200 (34.7)0.156363 (28.0)177 (28.8)371 (29.2)0.794
 Low (CDAI score 2.8–10)175 (22.3)82 (28.8)124 (21.5)0.044188 (14.5)112 (18.2)168 (13.2)0.016
 Depression in last 8 weeks154 (19.6)42 (14.7)106 (18.4)0.187259 (20.0)130 (21.1)242 (19.1)0.564
 Fatigue in last 8 weeks230 (29.3)72 (25.3)156 (27.0)0.368433 (33.4)188 (30.6)384 (30.3)0.185
Medication use        
 Concomitant prednisone, no. (%)270 (34.4)89 (31.2)231 (40.0)0.025544 (42.0)224 (36.4)555 (43.7)0.010
 Concomitant methotrexate, no. (%)N/AN/AN/AN/A936 (72.3)386 (62.8)859 (67.7)< 0.001
 Prior use, no. (%)631 (80.5)271 (95.1)541 (93.8)< 0.001538 (41.5)374 (60.8)808 (63.7)< 0.001
 No. of prior medications1.2 ± 0.91.8 ± 1.02.0 ± 1.20.00002.1 ± 1.43.0 ± 1.63.4 ± 1.9< 0.001

The percentages of patients who achieved remission based on the CDAI over the followup period among the nonbiologic DMARD initiators was 21.3% in those with ≤5 years of disease duration as compared to 19.6% in those with 6–10 years and 13.5% in those with ≥11 years (P < 0.001) (Table 2). In the anti-TNF initiators, the rates were 22.3%, 17.7%, and 12.8%, respectively (P < 0.001). Similar results were found using the DAS28 in the anti-TNF initiators (24.1%, 21.2%, and 15.0%, respectively; P = 0.001). The DAS28 remission rates were somewhat lower among the 617 patients in the nonbiologic DMARD cohort who had the necessary data elements for the DAS28 calculation. The percentage of patients achieving sustained remission based on the CDAI was also greater for those with earlier disease duration among both the nonbiologic DMARD and anti-TNF initiators (nonbiologic DMARD initiators: 10.2%, 8.8%, and 2.5%, respectively; P < 0.001 and anti-TNF initiators: 9.7%, 9.5%, and 4.2%, respectively; P < 0.001). Similar estimates were obtained using the DAS28 among the anti-TNF initiators (8.9%, 11.6%, and 4.9%, respectively; P = 0.04).

Table 2. Percentages of patients going into remission within 1 year as well as those with sustained remission grouped according to initiated drug class (nonbiologic DMARD versus anti-TNF), disease duration, and remission definition*
 RA disease duration ≤5 yearsRA disease duration 6–10 yearsRA disease duration ≥11 yearsP
  • *

    DMARD = disease-modifying antirheumatic drug; anti-TNF = anti–tumor necrosis factor; RA = rheumatoid arthritis; CDAI = Clinical Disease Activity Index; DAS28 = 28-joint Disease Activity Score.

Nonbiologic DMARD initiators    
 Remission    
  CDAI (n = 1,646)21.319.613.5< 0.001
  DAS28 (n = 617)16.915.010.70.138
 Sustained remission    
  CDAI (n = 892)10.28.82.5< 0.001
  DAS28 (n = 316)2.17.43.40.192
Anti-TNF initiators    
 Remission    
  CDAI (n = 3,170)22.317.712.8< 0.001
  DAS28 (n = 1,247)24.121.215.00.001
 Sustained remission    
  CDAI (n = 1,864)9.79.54.2< 0.001
  DAS28 (n = 730)8.911.64.90.04

Among the nonbiologic DMARD initiators, an increase of disease duration of 5 years was associated with a reduced likelihood of remission based on the CDAI (OR 0.91, 95% CI 0.83–0.99) in both unadjusted and adjusted analyses (Table 3). Greater disease duration was also associated with a reduced likelihood of achieving sustained remission based on the CDAI (OR 0.61, 95% CI 0.48–0.76) (Table 4). Using the DAS28 and a smaller study population, the estimates for remission and sustained remission were similar, but the 95% CIs crossed unity.

Table 3. The adjusted likelihoods of achieving remission based on the CDAI and DAS28 in nonbiologic DMARD users*
 CDAI (n = 1,538)DAS28 (n = 582)
  • *

    Values are the odds ratio (95% confidence interval). CDAI = Clinical Disease Activity Index; DAS28 = 28-joint Disease Activity Score; DMARD = disease-modifying antirheumatic drug; RA = rheumatoid arthritis; M-HAQ = modified Health Assessment Questionnaire; MTX = methotrexate.

  • Odds ratio for every increase of 5 years in disease duration.

  • Odds ratio of age is for an increase of 10 years. The odds ratios for the M-HAQ and baseline disease activity are for a 1-unit change of the underlying variables. For the remaining variables, the odds ratios relate to the presence (as opposed to the absence) of the variable.

RA disease duration0.91 (0.83–0.99)0.94 (0.81–1.10)
Other covariates  
 Age0.92 (0.83–1.03)0.94 (0.78–1.14)
 Female sex0.64 (0.48–0.86)0.52 (0.30–0.90)
 High school education0.61 (0.38–0.97)1.21 (0.41–3.60)
 College education0.77 (0.48–1.23)2.04 (0.68–6.06)
 Disabled0.33 (0.16–0.67)0.48 (0.16–1.42)
 M-HAQ0.50 (0.34–0.75)0.53 (0.26–1.11)
 Fatigue0.97 (0.70–1.36)0.80 (0.44–1.47)
 Prednisone0.65 (0.48–0.88)0.40 (0.22–0.72)
 MTX1.04 (0.78–1.39)1.13 (0.64–2.00)
 Concomitant DMARD1.12 (0.83–1.52)1.87 (1.05–3.34)
 Prior DMARD use0.74 (0.47–1.15)0.49 (0.23–1.05)
 Baseline disease activity0.97 (0.96–0.99)0.63 (0.47–0.83)
Table 4. The adjusted likelihoods of achieving sustained remission based on the CDAI and DAS28 among nonbiologic DMARD initiators*
 CDAI (n = 868)DAS28 (n = 309)
  • *

    Values are the odds ratio (95% confidence interval). See Table 3 for abbreviations.

  • Odds ratio for every increase of 5 years in disease duration.

  • Odds ratio of age is for an increase of 10 years. The odds ratios for the M-HAQ and baseline disease activity are for a 1-unit change of the underlying variables. For the remaining variables, the odds ratios relate to the presence (as opposed to the absence) of the variable.

RA disease duration0.61 (0.48–0.76)0.89 (0.63–1.27)
Other covariates  
 Age0.87 (0.70–1.08)1.16 (0.61–2.24)
 Female sex1.00 (0.53–1.92)0.10 (0.02–0.52)
 Disabled0.38 (0.09–1.63)0.88 (0.12–6.25)
 M-HAQ0.43 (0.18–1.04)0.11 (0.01–1.27)
 Fatigue0.32 (0.13–0.76)1.15 (0.22–6.05)
 Prednisone0.42 (0.21–0.83)0.16 (0.02–1.30)
 MTX2.04 (1.12–3.71)2.87 (0.57–14.55)
 Concomitant DMARD0.97 (0.53–1.79)3.39 (0.71–16.15)
 Prior DMARD use1.22 (0.45–3.34)1.07 (0.13–8.86)
 Baseline disease activity0.99 (0.96–1.02)1.61 (0.87–3.00)

Among the anti-TNF initiators, disease duration was associated with remission using both the CDAI (OR 0.88, 95% CI 0.83–0.94) and the DAS28 (OR 0.90, 95% CI 0.83–0.99) (Table 5). Greater disease duration was also associated with a reduced likelihood of achieving sustained remission based on the CDAI (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.75–0.97). Using the DAS28, the estimate was similar but the 95% CI crossed unity (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.75–1.06) (Table 6).

Table 5. The adjusted likelihoods of achieving remission based on the CDAI and DAS28 among anti-TNF initiators*
 CDAI (n = 3,106)DAS28 (n = 1,217)
  • *

    Values are the odds ratio (95% confidence interval). CDAI = Clinical Disease Activity Index; DAS28 = 28-joint Disease Activity Score; anti-TNF = anti–tumor necrosis factor; RA = rheumatoid arthritis; M-HAQ = modified Health Assessment Questionnaire; MTX = methotrexate.

  • Odds ratio for every increase of 5 years in disease duration.

  • Odds ratio of age is for an increase of 10 years. The odds ratios for the M-HAQ and baseline disease activity are for a 1-unit change of the underlying variables. For the remaining variables, the odds ratios relate to the presence (as opposed to the absence) of the variable.

RA disease duration0.88 (0.83–0.94)0.90 (0.83–0.99)
 Other covariates  
 Age0.95 (0.88–1.03)0.89 (0.80–1.00)
 Female sex0.92 (0.73–1.16)0.67 (0.47–0.94)
 Disabled0.49 (0.33–0.74)0.56 (0.31–0.99)
 M-HAQ0.45 (0.34–0.59)0.93 (0.63–1.36)
 Fatigue0.72 (0.57–0.91)0.68 (0.48–0.96)
 Concomitant prednisone0.74 (0.60–0.90)0.99 (0.73–1.33)
 Concomitant MTX1.36 (1.08–1.70)1.46 (1.02–2.09)
 Baseline disease activity0.56 (0.46–0.69)0.58 (0.43–0.79)
 Prior anti-TNF use0.98 (0.97–0.99)0.62 (0.54–0.72)
Table 6. The adjusted likelihoods of achieving sustained remission based on the CDAI and DAS28 among anti-TNF initiators*
 CDAI (n = 1,830)DAS28 (n = 602)
  • *

    Values are the odds ratio (95% confidence interval). See Table 5 for abbreviations.

  • Odds ratio for every increase of 5 years in disease duration.

  • Odds ratio of age is for an increase of 10 years. The odds ratios for the M-HAQ and baseline disease activity are for a 1-unit change of the underlying variables. For the remaining variables, the odds ratios relate to the presence (as opposed to the absence) of the variable.

  • §

    There were too few patients to examine whether disability influenced the likelihood of sustained remission using the DAS28.

RA disease duration0.85 (0.75–0.97)0.89 (0.75–1.06)
Other covariates  
 Age0.91 (0.79–1.04)0.79 (0.63–1.00)
 Female sex0.99 (0.65–1.53)0.43 (0.23–0.82)
 Disabled§0.25 (0.08–0.79)
 M-HAQ0.35 (0.19–0.62)0.53 (0.24–1.16)
 Fatigue0.67 (0.43–1.04)0.46 (0.21–1.03)
 Concomitant prednisone0.69 (0.47–1.00)0.74 (0.40–1.37)
 Concomitant MTX1.55 (1.00–2.42)2.83 (1.18–6.80)
 Baseline disease activity0.57 (0.39–0.84)0.37 (0.19–0.73)
 Prior anti-TNF use0.98 (0.96–1.00)0.72 (0.54–0.94)

As a sensitivity analysis, we examined the relationship between disease duration and achievement of remission, as well as sustained remission, in those who had never taken biologics using logistic regression models (there were too few patients to examine rates in those initiating their first nonbiologic DMARD). There was a significant relationship between disease duration and likelihood of remission using the CDAI (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.79–0.938 for a 5-year increase in RA disease duration); however, the 95% CI crossed unity when using the DAS28 outcome definition (OR 0.97, 95% CI 0.86–1.09). This is likely related to the greater than 50% decrease in the sample size (1,217 versus 579) when the analyses were limited to those who had never taken biologics. Similar findings were demonstrated when examining the likelihood of sustained remission using the CDAI (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.73–0.98) and DAS28 (OR 0.94, 95% CI 0.78–1.14).

DISCUSSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  5. RESULTS
  6. DISCUSSION
  7. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  8. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  9. REFERENCES

In this large US-based cohort of RA patients, we report on remission rates achieved using nonbiologic DMARDs and anti-TNF agents based on RA disease duration through two well-recognized remission definitions. Interestingly, unadjusted CDAI remission and CDAI sustained remission rates were similar in the nonbiologic DMARD and anti-TNF initiators, particularly those with ≤5 years of disease duration. In both unadjusted and adjusted analyses, initiation of nonbiologic DMARDs and anti-TNFs in those with earlier disease was associated with a greater likelihood of remission and sustained remission using the CDAI. This was also seen using the DAS28 remission definition in anti-TNF initiators. Similar results were found when the analyses were limited to patients who had never taken biologics at the time of anti-TNF initiation.

Our results build upon the work of others who reported disease duration to be an important prognostic predictor of RA drug response. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of nonbiologic DMARDs, including methotrexate, demonstrated greater ACR response rates for patients with a shorter disease duration (2). However, remission outcomes were not examined and patients in the meta-analysis had markedly greater disease activity based on tender and swollen joint counts, ESR, and M-HAQ scores than our US-based cohort. In a post hoc analysis of etanercept trials, patients with early RA had greater improvement in functional status as measured by the HAQ than those with established disease (13). In a post hoc analysis of the DE019 trial, which demonstrated the efficacy of adalimumab in patients with RA, there was a trend toward superior clinical, functional, and radiographic outcomes in patients with early versus established disease (14). These studies support our findings in a large observational cohort that disease duration is an important predictor of remission outcomes.

To our knowledge, this is the first large clinical observational study showing greater remission rates associated with anti-TNF use stratified by disease duration. The largest published clinical study of remission and anti-TNF therapy was the Research in Active RA (ReAct) trial, an open-label trial of adalimumab (15). The ReAct study population of 6,610 RA patients had remission rates of 27% by the CDAI and 38% by the DAS28 (15). The baseline level of disease activity in ReAct was greater than in the CORRONA cohort. Interestingly, disease duration was not found to be a predictor of DAS28 remission. Similarly, in the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register, disease duration was neither a predictor of DAS28 remission nor a response for patients prescribed etanercept (n = 1,267) or infliximab (n = 1,612), and they examined the influence of disease duration based on 10-year increments (16). A third observational study from Italian investigators of 1,257 RA patients treated with anti-TNFs failed to identify disease duration as a predictor of remission, using 12 years as the cut point (17).

Our findings differ from the results of the 3 European clinical studies, and a number of differences may explain these discordant results. First, the study population of anti-TNF–treated patients in the CORRONA US-based registry included a large percentage of patients with less severe RA, with baseline joint counts and disease activity markedly lower than observed in the European studies. The many societal and health access reasons for this disparity have been discussed in detail (11). Briefly, the use of biologic drugs is much greater in the US than in European societies because in Europe certain minimal disease characteristics are mandated in one-payer systems. Finally, the primary definition of remission is also different between studies. Since our results were similar using the CDAI and the DAS28 definitions, this gives us additional confidence in our findings.

Interestingly, we found approximately 50% fewer patients in sustained remission compared with remission at one visit during the followup period. This suggests that many patients move in and out of remission, no matter how the remission is defined. It is likely that patients have ongoing disease activity even when they are characterized as being “in remission.” Nevertheless, we observed that disease duration was an independent predictor of sustained remission. To achieve and sustain remission in patients, treating rheumatologists will need to be diligent in detecting and documenting low levels of clinical disease activity. Sustained remission is probably preferable, as it has been demonstrated that longer sustained remission, variously defined, was associated with less radiographic or functional deterioration and that shorter times in remission were associated with more radiographic progression (18–21). However, radiograph progression may occur despite being in clinical remission (22). Brown et al demonstrated synovitis by ultrasound in some patients in clinical remission, and this led to progression of radiographic joint damage (23). Therefore, all of the clinical implications of patients who go in and out of remission versus those who have a sustained remission have not really been uniformly established. It is presently unclear if disability or quality of life issues are substantially different between these two therapeutic responses.

It is not surprising that prior anti-TNF use decreased the likelihood of achieving remission, as the decision to discontinue is often based on response. Others have found that the effectiveness of anti-TNF agents was consistently superior for patients who had never taken biologics versus biologic-experienced patients (24–26). Similar findings were demonstrated in randomized controlled trials of new biologic agents, suggesting that patients with a prior inadequate response to anti-TNF agents may represent a more treatment-resistant population (27). Interestingly, patients with greater functional impairment (indicated by a greater M-HAQ score), disability, and greater fatigue at baseline also have a decreased likelihood of achieving remission. Taken together with our observation of an enhanced clinical response in patients with earlier disease, it follows that patients with a high M-HAQ score may have more advanced disease, and therefore, the anti-TNF agent was less likely to be effective. The same observation was noted in the nonbiologic DMARD initiators. However, alternate hypotheses include the possibility that even earlier interventions will not be as effective in patients who already have established functional decline, as they may have more treatment-resistant disease and have an irreversible component to their functional disability that would be unresponsive even to effective therapies for RA. It is also possible that the components of the M-HAQ can be related to alternative disease states, including secondary osteoarthritis, which would not necessarily be expected to respond to more aggressive interventions for RA.

Our study has certain limitations. Currently, there are several approaches to assess clinical remission. We used the CDAI as our primary remission measure, principally because this allowed for the inclusion of the greatest number of patients with complete measures. The CDAI reflected the impact of disease duration on both remission and sustained remission in both the unadjusted and adjusted models, while the DAS28 showed effects only for remission (not sustained remission). This difference may have simply been the result of having fewer patients in the DAS28 group for which sustained remission could be assessed (CDAI group n = 1,830 versus DAS28 group n = 602 among the anti-TNF initiators). Also, the CDAI is independent of the ESR, leaving it more freely responsive to the purely clinical measures. It is reassuring that the CDAI remission criteria are more stringent than the DAS28, in that these require less residual disease activity (28). Our registry does not mandate radiographic imaging at predefined time periods; thus, our analyses could only focus on the attainment of clinical remission with nonbiologic DMARDs and anti-TNF therapies without examination of radiographic progression. Lastly, the patients with a longer disease duration were more likely to be switching nonbiologic DMARD therapy rather than the first-time DMARD users, and there were insufficient numbers of patients starting their first nonbiologic DMARD in order to analyze their results separately. Therefore, it is difficult to disentangle the effect of disease duration from treatment-resistant disease suggested by nonbiologic DMARD switching.

The strengths of our study include a very large number of “real-world” patients from a large US-based registry that includes detailed clinical data measurements derived from rheumatologists at the time of a clinical encounter. Many of the reports from registry data are derived from Europe, where the overall disease activity tends to be substantially greater than that found within the US (11). Therefore, US registry data are important for comparisons of clinical outcomes across different societal and political contexts.

In conclusion, the results of this US-based study demonstrate that for every increase of disease duration of 5 years, the likelihood of remission and sustained remission are reduced by 10–15% in the adjusted models. Given that it represents a state with the least likelihood of disease progression, remission should be the therapeutic goal for patients and providers. To achieve this goal, our data lend further evidence that early and aggressive treatment of RA is an appropriate strategy in order to achieve remission as soon as possible after the onset of the disease. Patients and providers should strive for tight control through serial assessment of disease activity, and by basing treatment decisions on these findings.

AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  5. RESULTS
  6. DISCUSSION
  7. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  8. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  9. REFERENCES

All authors were involved in drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content, and all authors approved the final version to be published. Dr. Greenberg had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Study conception and design. Furst, Pangan, Harrold, Reed, Greenberg.

Acquisition of data. Kremer, Greenberg.

Analysis and interpretation of data. Furst, Pangan, Harrold, Chang, Reed, Greenberg.

ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  5. RESULTS
  6. DISCUSSION
  7. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  8. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  9. REFERENCES

Abbott, as part of its subscription contract, proposed the research study and was involved in the early design, as well as manuscript review and comment for this study. The final study design, analysis plan, reporting of study results, writing of the manuscript, and decision to publish the manuscript were those of the non-Abbott authors. A number of other companies, including Amgen, BMS, Centocor, Genentech, Lilly, and Roche, have also supported the Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America registry through subscription contracts. These companies were not involved in the study design, data collection, data analysis, writing, approval, or decision to publish this manuscript.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  5. RESULTS
  6. DISCUSSION
  7. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  8. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  9. REFERENCES
  • 1
    Mottonen T, Hannonen P, Korpela M, Nissila M, Kautiainen H, Ilonen J, et al, for the FIN-RACo Trial Group. Delay to institution of therapy and induction of remission using single-drug or combination–disease-modifying antirheumatic drug therapy in early rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2002; 46: 8948.
  • 2
    Anderson JJ, Wells G, Verhoeven AC, Felson DT. Factors predicting response to treatment in rheumatoid arthritis: the importance of disease duration. Arthritis Rheum 2000; 43: 229.
  • 3
    Hochberg MC, Lebwohl MG, Plevy SE, Hobbs KF, Yocum DE. The benefit/risk profile of TNF-blocking agents: findings of a consensus panel. Semin Arthritis Rheum 2005; 34: 81936.
  • 4
    Breedveld FC, Weisman MH, Kavanaugh AF, Cohen SB, Pavelka K, van Vollenhoven R, et al, for the PREMIER Investigators. The PREMIER study: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind clinical trial of combination therapy with adalimumab plus methotrexate versus methotrexate alone or adalimumab alone in patients with early, aggressive rheumatoid arthritis who had not had previous methotrexate treatment. Arthritis Rheum 2006; 54: 2637.
  • 5
    Emery P, Breedveld FC, Hall S, Durez P, Chang DJ, Robertson D, et al. Comparison of methotrexate monotherapy with a combination of methotrexate and etanercept in active, early, moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (COMET): a randomised, double-blind, parallel treatment trial. Lancet 2008; 372: 37582.
  • 6
    St.Clair EW, van der Heijde DM, Smolen JS, Maini RN, Bathon JM, Emery P, et al, for the Active-Controlled Study of Patients Receiving Infliximab for the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis of Early Onset Study Group. Combination of infliximab and methotrexate therapy for early rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized, controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum 2004; 50: 343243.
  • 7
    Bombardieri S, Ruiz AA, Fardellone P, Geusens P, McKenna F, Unnebrink K, et al, for the Research in Active Rheumatoid Arthritis (ReAct) Study Group. Effectiveness of adalimumab for rheumatoid arthritis in patients with a history of TNF-antagonist therapy in clinical practice. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2007; 46: 11919.
  • 8
    Kremer J. The CORRONA database. Ann Rheum Dis 2005; 64 Suppl 4: iv3741.
  • 9
    Kremer JM, Gibofsky A, Greenberg JD. The role of drug and disease registries in rheumatic disease epidemiology. Curr Opin Rheumatol 2008; 20: 12330.
  • 10
    Felson DT, Anderson JJ, Boers M, Bombardier C, Furst D, Goldsmith C, et al. American College of Rheumatology preliminary definition of improvement in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 1995; 38: 72735.
  • 11
    Kremer JM, Greenberg J. Interpreting registry-derived drug studies: does societal context matter? [editorial]. Arthritis Rheum 2009; 60: 31557.
  • 12
    Gossec L, Dougados M, Goupille P, Cantagrel A, Sibilia J, Meyer O, et al. Prognostic factors for remission in early rheumatoid arthritis: a multiparameter prospective study. Ann Rheum Dis 2004; 63: 67580.
  • 13
    Baumgartner SW, Fleischmann RM, Moreland LW, Schiff MH, Markenson J, Whitmore JB. Etanercept (Enbrel) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis with recent onset versus established disease: improvement in disability. J Rheumatol 2004; 31: 15327.
  • 14
    Jamal S, Patra K, Keystone EC. Adalimumab response in patients with early versus established rheumatoid arthritis: DE019 randomized controlled trial subanalysis. Clin Rheumatol 2009; 28: 4139.
  • 15
    Burmester GR, Ferraccioli G, Flipo RM, Monteagudo-Saez I, Unnebrink K, Kary S, et al. Clinical remission and/or minimal disease activity in patients receiving adalimumab treatment in a multinational, open-label, twelve-week study. Arthritis Rheum 2008; 59: 3241.
  • 16
    Hyrich KL, Watson KD, Silman AJ, Symmons DP. Predictors of response to anti-TNF-α therapy among patients with rheumatoid arthritis: results from the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2006; 45: 155865.
  • 17
    Mancarella L, Bobbio-Pallavicini F, Ceccarelli F, Falappone PC, Ferrante A, Malesci D, et al. Good clinical response, remission, and predictors of remission in rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with tumor necrosis factor-α blockers: the GISEA study [published erratum appears in J Rheumatol 2007;34:1947]. J Rheumatol 2007; 34: 16703.
  • 18
    Makinen H, Kautiainen H, Hannonen P, Mottonen T, Leirisalo-Repo M, Laasonen L, et al. Sustained remission and reduced radiographic progression with combination disease modifying antirheumatic drugs in early rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol 2007; 34: 31621.
  • 19
    Smolen JS, van der Heijde DM, St.Clair EW, Emery P, Bathon JM, Keystone E, et al, for the Active-Controlled Study of Patients Receiving Infliximab for the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis of Early Onset (ASPIRE) Study Group. Predictors of joint damage in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis treated with high-dose methotrexate with or without concomitant infliximab: results from the ASPIRE trial. Arthritis Rheum 2006; 54: 70210.
  • 20
    Hafstrom I, Albertsson K, Boonen A, van der Heijde D, Landewe R, Svensson B, for the BARFOT Study Group. Remission achieved after 2 years treatment with low-dose prednisolone in addition to disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs in early rheumatoid arthritis is associated with reduced joint destruction still present after 4 years: an open 2-year continuation study. Ann Rheum Dis 2009; 68: 50813.
  • 21
    Van der Heijde D, Klareskog L, Landewe R, Bruyn GA, Cantagrel A, Durez P, et al, for the TEMPO Study Investigators. Disease remission and sustained halting of radiographic progression with combination etanercept and methotrexate in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2007; 56: 392839.
  • 22
    Molenaar ET, Voskuyl AE, Dinant HJ, Bezemer PD, Boers M, Dijkmans BA. Progression of radiologic damage in patients with rheumatoid arthritis in clinical remission. Arthritis Rheum 2004; 50: 3642.
  • 23
    Brown AK, Conaghan PG, Karim Z, Quin MA, Ikeda K, Peterfy CG, et al. An explanation for the apparent dissociation between clinical remission and continued structural deterioration in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2008; 58: 295867.
  • 24
    Hyrich KL, Lunt M, Dixon WG, Watson KD, Symmons DP. Effects of switching between anti-TNF therapies on HAQ response in patients who do not respond to their first anti-TNF drug. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2008; 47: 10005.
  • 25
    Hyrich KL, Lunt M, Watson KD, Symmons DP, Silman AJ, for the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register. Outcomes after switching from one anti–tumor necrosis factor α agent to a second anti–tumor necrosis factor α agent in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: results from a large UK national cohort study. Arthritis Rheum 2007; 56: 1320.
  • 26
    Karlsson JA, Kristensen LE, Kapetanovic MC, Gulfe A, Saxne T, Geborek P. Treatment response to a second or third TNF-inhibitor in RA: results from the South Swedish Arthritis Treatment Group Register. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2008; 47: 50713.
  • 27
    Genovese MC, Becker JC, Schiff M, Luggen M, Sherrer Y, Kremer J, et al. Abatacept for rheumatoid arthritis refractory to tumor necrosis factor α inhibition. N Engl J Med 2005; 353: 111423.
  • 28
    Mierau M, Schoels M, Gonda G, Fuchs J, Aletaha D, Smolen JS. Assessing remission in clinical practice. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2007; 46: 9759.