Objectives: There is limited information on treatment withdrawal in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This study investigated the clinical course after stopping disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in patients with well-controlled RA and the clinical features associated with disease flare. Methods: Among patients in the Korean Intensive Management of Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (KIMERA) cohort, discontinuation of DMARDs was determined by a shared decision between patient and rheumatologist. Drug-free remission was defined as (1) non-use of DMARDs and corticosteroids, (2) Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28) <2.6, and (3) no evidence of synovitis. The maintenance rate of drug-free remission and the predictors for flare were evaluated using Cox proportional hazard models. Results: Of 234 patients, 50 patients discontinued DMARDs. All but one using etanercept were treated with conventional synthetic DMARDs. The median follow-up duration was 30 months, and 31 patients (62%) experienced disease flare after stopping DMARDs. The maintenance rate of drug-free remission was 94.0%, 86.7%, and 46.1% at 12, 24, and 48 months, respectively. Disease flare was correlated with longer time to remission, failure of initial DMARDs, and longer duration of disease and higher disease activity at DMARD withdrawal (P = 0.001, 0.022, 0.010 and 0.037, respectively). In multivariate analyses, longer duration of disease (>24 months) and higher disease activity (DAS28 >2.26) at DMARD withdrawal was independently associated with disease flare. Conclusion: Drug-free remission was feasible in selected patients with well-controlled RA. Patients with early RA and lower disease activity at DMARD withdrawal are more likely to maintain the drug-free remission.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine