Materials and methods: Eighteen patients with refractory RA receiving low dose CsA (2 mg/kg/day) and prednisone (5 mg/day) were treated with intravenous infliximab. The patients were given infliximab (3 mg/kg weight) at 0, two, six, and every eight weeks thereafter for a total period of 12 months. Clinical improvement was evaluated according to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 20% response criteria.
Results: Eighty per cent of patients receiving the combination treatment with CsA and infliximab achieved the 20% ACR criteria for response to treatment, whereas 39% satisfied the 50% response criteria. In addition, a 76% reduction in swollen and tender joint count was found. Finally, a reduction in C reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate was maintained throughout the study. In general, treatment was well tolerated, with minimal adverse drug reactions. Two patients dropped out; one because of an immediate hypersensitivity reaction and the other because of the development of pulmonary tuberculosis.
Conclusion: Multiple infusions of infliximab and low doses of CsA improve patients with refractory RA. It seems that CsA may be an alternative disease modifying drug to be used in combination with infliximab in patients with refractory RA who cannot tolerate MTX.