Objectives: To study the impact of treatment strategy on achieving and sustaining disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD)-free remission in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methods: Two hundred seventy-nine RA patients (median follow-up 7.8 years) were studied. Of these, 155 patients participated in a disease activity score (DAS) < 1.6 steered trial aimed at DMARD-free remission. Initial treatment comprised methotrexate with high-dose prednisone (60 mg/day) and a possibility to start biologicals after 4 months. In the same period and hospital, 124 patients were treated according to routine care, comprising DAS < 2.4 steered treatment. Percentages of DMARD-free remission (absence of synovitis for ≥ 1 year after DMARD cessation), late flares (recurrence of clinical synovitis ≥ 1 year after DMARD cessation), and DMARD-free sustained remission (DMARD-free remission sustained during complete follow-up) were compared between both treatment strategies. Results: Patients receiving intensive treatment were younger and more often ACPA-positive. On a group level, there was no significant association between intensive treatment and DMARD-free remission (35% vs 29%, corrected hazard ratio (HR) 1.4, 95%CI 0.9–2.2), nor in ACPA-negative RA (49% versus 44%). In ACPA-positive RA intensive treatment resulted in more DMARD-free remission (25% vs 6%, corrected HR 4.9, 95%CI 1.4–17). Intensive treatment was associated with more late flares (20% versus 8%, HR 2.3, 95%CI 0.6–8.3). Subsequently, there was no difference in DMARD-free sustained remission on a group level (28% versus 27%), nor in the ACPA-negative (43% versus 42%) or ACPA-positive stratum (17% versus 6%, corrected HR 3.1, 95%CI 0.9–11). Conclusions: Intensive treatment did not result in more DMARD-free sustained remission, compared to routine up-todate care. The data showed a tendency towards an effect of intensive treatment in ACPA-positive RA; this needs further investigation.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Rheumatoid arthritis, Epidemiology, Outcome measures, DMARDs, Study design
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13075-019-1893-z, hdl.handle.net/1765/116780
Journal Arthritis Research & Therapy
Citation
Burgers, L.E., van der Pol, J.A., Huizinga, T.W.J, Allaart, C.F, & van der Helm-va Mil, AHM. (2019). Does treatment strategy influence the ability to achieve and sustain DMARD-free remission in patients with RA? Results of an observational study comparing an intensified DAS-steered treatment strategy with treat to target in routine care. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 21. doi:10.1186/s13075-019-1893-z