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Objective: To describe the frequency and duration of remission in the Utrecht rheumatoid arthritis cohort of patients followed since diagnosis, and the clinical and treatment characteristics of patients with remission v those without.
Methods: In 1990 the Utrecht rheumatoid arthritis cohort study group started a clinical trial in which patients with recent onset of rheumatoid arthritis (<1 year) were randomised into four treatment groups: hydroxychloroquine (n = 169); intramuscular gold (n = 163); methotrexate (n = 166); and pyramid (n = 64). After two years, rheumatologists were allowed to prescribe any disease modifying antirheumatic drug. Remission was defined as: duration of morning stiffness 15 min, mean VAS pain 10 mm, Thompson joint score 10, and ESR 30 mm/h during at least six months. Cox regression analysis was used to determine baseline clinical, demographic, and treatment predictors of remission.
Results: Mean follow up duration was 62 months. Thirty six per cent achieved at least one period of remission. Median duration between diagnosis and the first remission period was 15 months for the intramuscular gold group, 18 months for the methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine groups, and 24 months for the pyramid group (NS). Predictors of remission were early response to initial treatment, less pain, rheumatoid factor negativity, and lower joint score at baseline.
Conclusions: After a mean follow up duration of 62 months, only 36% of the patients had fulfilled the remission criteria at least once. A good response to treatment during the first year seems to be independently associated with remission rather than initial treatment alone.