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1.  Advances in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis 
F1000Prime Reports  2014;6:31.
The intense pursuit of novel therapies in rheumatoid arthritis has provided physicians with an assorted set of biologic drugs to treat patients with moderate to severe disease activity. Nine different biologic therapies are currently available: seven inhibitors of pro-inflammatory cytokines (five targeting tumor necrosis factor [TNF], one interleukin [IL]-1 and one IL-6), as well as a T- and a B-lymphocyte targeting agent. All these drugs have roughly similar efficacy profiles and are approved as first- or second-line therapy in patients who failed to respond to conventional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and in most cases for first line use in rheumatoid arthritis as well. Despite the irrefutable clinical and radiological benefits of biologic therapies, there are still low rates of patients achieving stable remission. Therefore, the quest for new and more effective biologic therapies continues and every year new drugs are tested. Simultaneously, optimal use of established agents is being studied in different ways. Recently, the approval of the first small molecule targeting intracellular pathways has opened a new chapter in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Other emerging treatment strategies include the activation of regulatory T cells as well as new cytokine-targeting therapies.
doi:10.12703/P6-31
PMCID: PMC4017904  PMID: 24860653
2.  Early start and stop of biologics: has the time come? 
BMC Medicine  2014;12:25.
Despite considerable advances in the management of rheumatoid arthritis, results are still not satisfactory for all patients. The treatment goal in rheumatoid arthritis is remission, and there currently are numerous conventional and biological medications available to reach this aim. There are also different treatment strategies but with only limited comparative evidence about their efficacies. More patients now achieve remission while on treatment, but it remains elusive in the majority of patients. Treatment-free remission, the ultimate goal of therapy, is only achieved in very few patients; even when this happens, it is most likely due to the natural course of the disease rather than to any specific therapies. Modern treatment is based on the initiation of aggressive therapy as soon as the diagnosis is established, and on modifying or intensifying therapy guided by frequent assessment of disease activity. In this commentary we will discuss the current treatment paradigm as well as the possibility of an induction-maintenance regimen with biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs in early rheumatoid arthritis.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-12-25
PMCID: PMC3915229  PMID: 24502187
Biologics; Rheumatoid arthritis; Treatment
3.  Evaluation of hand bone loss by digital X-ray radiogrammetry as a complement to clinical and radiographic assessment in early rheumatoid arthritis: results from the SWEFOT trial 
Background
To investigate hand bone loss (HBL) measured by digital X-ray radiogrammetry (DXR) in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) receiving different treatment regimens, and to evaluate if DXR change rates during the first 12 months correlate with radiological damage after 24 months.
Methods
From the total SWEFOT trial population, 159 patients had hand radiographs correctly timed and taken with same modality to be analyzed with DXR. All patients started treatment with methotrexate. After 3–4 months, patients with DAS28 > 3.2 were randomized to add sulfasalazine and hydroxychloroquine (triple therapy) or infliximab (MTX + INF). Those with DAS28 ≤3.2 were followed in regular care. Radiographic progression over 24 months was scored according to the Sharp van der Heijde score (SHS) and defined as >5 increase in T-SHS over 24 months. Hand bone mineral density (BMD) was measured by DXR at inclusion and 12 months and a change ≥2.5 mg/cm2/month was used as a cut-off for HBL.
Results
In the MTX responders, triple therapy, and MTX + INF groups, the proportions with HBL were 4.1%, 22.2% and 16.4%, respectively (p = 0.01), and the mean (SD) radiological progression in these groups was 3.91 (6.72), 7.40 (14.63) and 2.72 (4.55) respectively (p = 0.06). Patients with HBL had significantly greater risk for radiographic progression, compared with patients without HBL (odds ratio 3.09, 95% CI =1.20–7.79, p = 0.02).
Conclusions
Non-responders to MTX had a significantly greater risk of HBL than MTX-responders, despite the add-on therapies. Patients with HBL during the 12 months had greater risk of radiographic progression after 24 months. Evaluation of HBL may help to identify patients who are at risk of radiographic progression.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-79
PMCID: PMC3599105  PMID: 23497111
4.  Influence of FCGR3A genotype on the therapeutic response to rituximab in rheumatoid arthritis: an observational cohort study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(5):e001524.
Objectives
To determine whether a polymorphism in the Fcγ receptor type IIIA (FCGR3A-F158V), influencing immunoglobulin G binding affinity, relates to the therapeutic efficacy of rituximab in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients.
Design
Observational cohort study.
Setting
Three university hospital rheumatology units in Sweden.
Participants
Patients with established RA (n=177; 145 females and 32 males) who started rituximab (Mabthera) as part of routine care.
Primary outcome measures
Response to rituximab therapy in relation to FCGR3A genotype, including stratification for sex.
Results
The frequency of responders differed significantly across FCGR3A genotypes (p=0.017 in a 3×2 contingency table). Heterozygous patients showed the highest response rate at 83%, as compared with patients carrying 158FF (68%) or 158VV (56%) (p=0.028 and 0.016, respectively). Among 158VV patients, response rates differed between male and female patients (p=0.036), but not among 158FF or 158VF patients (p=0.72 and 0.46, respectively).
Conclusions
Therapeutic efficacy of rituximab in RA patients is influenced by FCGR3A genotype, with the highest response rates found among heterozygous patients. This may suggest that different rituximab mechanisms of action in RA are optimally balanced in FCGR3A-158VF patients. Similar to the previously described associations with RA susceptibility and disease course, the impact of 158VV on rituximab response may be influenced by sex.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001524
PMCID: PMC3467642  PMID: 23002160
Rheumatology; Immunology; Therapeutics
5.  Gender and the treatment of immune-mediated chronic inflammatory diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis: an observational study 
BMC Medicine  2012;10:82.
Background
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and psoriasis are immune-mediated inflammatory diseases with similarities in pathophysiology, and all can be treated with similar biological agents. Previous studies have shown that there are gender differences with regard to disease characteristics in RA and IBD, with women generally having worse scores on pain and quality of life measurements. The relationship is less clear for psoriasis. Because treatment differences between men and women could explain the dissimilarities, we investigated gender differences in the disease characteristics before treatment initiation and in the biologic treatment prescribed.
Methods
Data on patients with RA or IBD were collected from two registries in which patients treated with biologic medication were enrolled. Basic demographic data and disease activity parameters were collected from a time point just before the initiation of the biologic treatment. For patients with psoriasis, the data were taken from the 2010 annual report of the Swedish Psoriasis Register for systemic treatment, which included also non-biologic treatment. For all three diseases, the prescribed treatment and disease characteristics were compared between men and women.
Results
In total, 4493 adult patients were included in the study (1912 with RA, 131 with IBD, and 2450 with psoriasis). Most of the treated patients with RA were women, whereas most of the patients with IBD or psoriasis were men. There were no significant differences between men and women in the choice of biologics. At treatment start, significant gender differences were seen in the subjective disease measurements for both RA and psoriasis, with women having higher (that is, worse) scores than men. No differences in objective measurements were found for RA, but for psoriasis men had higher (that is, worse) scores for objective disease activity measures. A similar trend to RA was seen in IBD.
Conclusions
Women with RA or psoriasis scored significantly higher on subjective, but not on objective, disease activity measures than men, and the same trend was seen in IBD. This indicates that at the same level of treatment, the disease has a greater effect in women. These findings might suggest that in all three diseases, subjective measures are discounted to some extent in the therapeutic decision-making process, which could indicate undertreatment in female patients.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-82
PMCID: PMC3414735  PMID: 22853635
6.  Sustained inhibition of progressive joint damage with rituximab plus methotrexate in early active rheumatoid arthritis: 2-year results from the randomised controlled trial IMAGE 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(3):351-357.
Background
In the IMAGE study, rituximab plus methotrexate (MTX) inhibited joint damage and improved clinical outcomes at 1 year in MTX-naïve patients with early active rheumatoid arthritis.
Objective
The aim of this study was to assess joint damage progression and clinical outcomes over 2 years.
Methods
Patients (n=755) were randomised to receive rituximab 2×500 mg+MTX, 2×1000 mg+MTX or placebo+MTX. The placebo-controlled period continued to week 104. Two-year end points were defined as secondary or exploratory and included change in total Genant-modified Sharp score (mTSS), total erosion score and joint space narrowing score from baseline to week 104. Clinical efficacy and physical function end points were also assessed.
Results
At 2 years, rituximab 2×1000 mg+MTX maintained inhibition of progressive joint damage versus MTX alone (mTSS change 0.41 vs 1.95; p<0.0001 (79% inhibition)), and a higher proportion of patients receiving rituximab 2×1000 mg+MTX had no radiographic progression over 2 years compared with those receiving MTX alone (57% vs 37%; p<0.0001). Contrary to 1-year results, exploratory analysis of rituximab 2×500 mg+MTX at 2 years showed that progressive joint damage was slowed by ∼61% versus placebo+MTX (mTSS, exploratory p=0.0041). Improvements in clinical signs and symptoms and physical function seen after 1 year in rituximab-treated patients versus those receiving placebo were maintained at year 2. Safety profiles were similar between groups.
Conclusions
Treatment with rituximab 2×1000 mg+MTX was associated with sustained improvements in radiographic, clinical and functional outcomes over 2 years.
Clinical trials.gov identifier NCT00299104.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200170
PMCID: PMC3277723  PMID: 22012969
7.  Integrated safety in tocilizumab clinical trials 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(5):R141.
Introduction
The efficacy and safety of tocilizumab in patients with rheumatoid arthritis have been evaluated in a comprehensive phase 3 program. Patients from these randomized trials could receive tocilizumab treatment in open-label extension trials. Here, the long-term safety profile of tocilizumab, using pooled data from all of these trials, is reported.
Methods
Cumulative safety data (as of February 6, 2009) from five core phase 3 trials, two ongoing extension trials, and one clinical pharmacology study were analyzed. Two patient populations were evaluated: an all-control population (n = 4,199), which included all patients randomly assigned in the placebo-controlled portions of the five core studies, and an all-exposed population (n = 4,009), which included patients from any of the eight studies who received at least one dose of tocilizumab.
Results
Total exposure to tocilizumab was 8,580 patient years (PY), and total duration of observation was 9,414 PY. Overall adverse event (AE) and serious AE (SAE) rates were 278.2/100 PY and 14.4/100 PY, respectively. These events included serious infections (4.7/100 PY), opportunistic infections (0.23/100 PY), gastrointestinal perforations (0.28/100 PY), malignancy (1.1/100 PY), myocardial infarction (0.25/100 PY), and stroke (0.19/100 PY). The rates of SAEs and serious infections were stable over time; no increase with prolonged exposure was noted.
Conclusions
The longer-term safety profile of tocilizumab (mean treatment duration, 2.4 years) is consistent with that observed in the phase 3 studies (duration up to 1 year).
doi:10.1186/ar3455
PMCID: PMC3308069  PMID: 21884601
8.  Patient Preference Assessment Reveals Disease Aspects Not Covered by Recommended Outcomes in Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis 
ISRN Rheumatology  2011;2011:463124.
Objectives. Polymyositis (PM) and dermatomyositis (DM) are characterized by impaired muscle function with a majority of patients developing sustained disability. The aim of this study was to evaluate the patient's individual priorities (patient preference) of disabilities most important to improve in PM/DM using the MacMaster Toronto Arthritis Patient Preference Disability Questionnaire (MACTAR), to correlate the MACTAR to myositis outcomes and to evaluate its test-retest reliability. Methods. Twenty-eight patients with PM/DM performed recommended outcomes as well as the MACTAR, which was performed twice with one week apart. Results. Sexual activity, walking, biking, social activities, and sleep constituted the predominating disabilities. Seventy-two and 33% of the identified disabilities were not covered by items of the Health Assessment Questionnaire and the Myositis Activities Profile. Correlations between the MACTAR and health-related quality of life measures were rs = −0.67–0.73, correlations with measures of activities of daily living and participation in society were rs = 0.51–0.60 with lower correlations for other outcomes. Intraclass correlation (ICC) and weighted Kappa (Kw) coefficients were 0.83 and 0.68, respectively, for test-retest reliability of the MACTAR. Conclusions. The MACTAR interview had promising measurement properties and identified patient preference disabilities in PM/DM that were not covered by recommended outcomes.
doi:10.5402/2011/463124
PMCID: PMC3263738  PMID: 22389795
9.  Certolizumab pegol plus methotrexate provides broad relief from the burden of rheumatoid arthritis: analysis of patient-reported outcomes from the RAPID 2 trial 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;70(6):996-1002.
Objective
To assess the impact of certolizumab pegol (CZP) on patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to interpret these results using number needed to treat (NNT), and associations between PRO responses and longer term outcomes.
Methods
A total of 619 patients with active RA were randomised to CZP 200 or 400 mg, or placebo plus methotrexate (MTX). PROs assessed included pain, patient's global assessment of disease activity (PtGA), physical function, fatigue and health-related quality of life. Treatment impact on PROs, NNT to achieve simultaneous improvements in multiple PROs and correlations between PROs were calculated. Times to onset of improvements greater than or equal to minimum clinically important differences (MCIDs) in pain as a determinant of clinical outcomes at week 24 were compared between week 6 and 12 responders, and in patients with improvements in pain ≥MCID at week 12 (week 12 responders/non-responders).
Results
CZP 200 and 400 mg plus MTX were associated with rapid, clinically meaningful improvements in all PROs. The NNT for subjects to report changes ≥MCID in up to five PROs was two to three, and five for all six PROs (pain, PtGA, physical function, fatigue and short-form 36-item Physical and Mental Component Summary Scores). More patients with improvements ≥MCID in pain at week 6 than those at week 12 had lower disease activity at week 24. Week 12 pain responders had better clinical outcomes at week 24 than non-responders.
Conclusions
The data demonstrate that CZP provides broad relief from the burden of RA.
Trial registration number
NCT00160602.
doi:10.1136/ard.2010.143586
PMCID: PMC3086050  PMID: 21415050
10.  Time‐dependent increase in risk of hospitalisation with infection among Swedish RA patients treated with TNF antagonists 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(10):1339-1344.
Objectives
The degree to which treatment with tumour necrosis factor (TNF) antagonists may be associated with increased risks for serious infections is unclear. An observational cohort study was performed using prospectively collected data from the Swedish Biologics Register (ARTIS) and other national Swedish registers.
Methods
First, in the ARTIS, all 4167 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients starting TNF antagonist treatment between 1999 and 2003 were identified. Secondly, in the Swedish Inpatient Register, all individuals hospitalised for any reason and who also carried a diagnosis of RA, between 1964 and 2003 (n = 44 946 of whom 2692 also occurred in ARTIS), were identified. Thirdly, in the Swedish Inpatient Register, all hospitalisations listing an infection between 1999 and 2003 were identified. By cross‐referencing these three data sets, RRs for hospitalisation with infection associated with TNF antagonist treatment were calculated within the cohort of 44 946 RA patients, using Cox regression taking sex, age, geography, co‐morbidity and use of inpatient care into account.
Results
Among the 4167 patients treated with TNF antagonists, 367 hospitalisations with infections occurred during 7776 person‐years. Within the cohort of 44 496 RA patients, the RR for infection associated with TNF antagonists was 1.43 (95% CI 1.18 to 1.73) during the first year of treatment, 1.15 (95% CI 0.88 to 1.51) during the second year of treatment, and 0.82 (95% CI 0.62 to 1.08) for subjects remaining on their first TNF antagonist treatment after 2 years.
Conclusion
Treatment with TNF antagonists may be associated with a small to moderate increase in risk of hospitalisation with infection, which disappears with increasing treatment duration.
doi:10.1136/ard.2006.062760
PMCID: PMC1994293  PMID: 17261532
11.  Switching between anti‐tumour necrosis factors: trying to get a handle on a complex issue 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(7):849-851.
The question of switching is not only a question of clinical practice, but has an important scientific dimension as well See linked article, p 893
doi:10.1136/ard.2007.069872
PMCID: PMC1955116  PMID: 17576784
12.  Blood autoantibody and cytokine profiles predict response to anti-tumor necrosis factor therapy in rheumatoid arthritis 
Introduction
Anti-TNF therapies have revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a common systemic autoimmune disease involving destruction of the synovial joints. However, in the practice of rheumatology approximately one-third of patients demonstrate no clinical improvement in response to treatment with anti-TNF therapies, while another third demonstrate a partial response, and one-third an excellent and sustained response. Since no clinical or laboratory tests are available to predict response to anti-TNF therapies, great need exists for predictive biomarkers.
Methods
Here we present a multi-step proteomics approach using arthritis antigen arrays, a multiplex cytokine assay, and conventional ELISA, with the objective to identify a biomarker signature in three ethnically diverse cohorts of RA patients treated with the anti-TNF therapy etanercept.
Results
We identified a 24-biomarker signature that enabled prediction of a positive clinical response to etanercept in all three cohorts (positive predictive values 58 to 72%; negative predictive values 63 to 78%).
Conclusions
We identified a multi-parameter protein biomarker that enables pretreatment classification and prediction of etanercept responders, and tested this biomarker using three independent cohorts of RA patients. Although further validation in prospective and larger cohorts is needed, our observations demonstrate that multiplex characterization of autoantibodies and cytokines provides clinical utility for predicting response to the anti-TNF therapy etanercept in RA patients.
doi:10.1186/ar2706
PMCID: PMC2714123  PMID: 19460157
13.  Sex differences in rheumatoid arthritis: more than meets the eye... 
BMC Medicine  2009;7:12.
Sex differences in the prevalence of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are well described, but the literature is not as clear about sex differences in RA disease course and prognosis. A recent study from a very large cross-sectional international cohort demonstrated slightly worse levels of disease activity and function in female patients with RA, compared with men. These findings are discussed in the context of our evolving knowledge of sex differences in the expression of this prototypic autoimmune disease, both in terms of the actual disease activity level, the effects that the disease has on physical function, and our ability accurately to measure these aspects.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-7-12
PMCID: PMC2670321  PMID: 19331649
14.  Rheumatologists, take heart! We may be doing something right 
In the present issue of Arthritis Research & Therapy data are presented suggesting that antirheumatic therapies decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The QUEST-RA group, a large international collaboration, analyzed data on 4,363 patients in a cross-sectional manner. Traditional risk factors were all significantly associated with cardiovascular events, and the presence of extraarticular disease significantly increased the risk, confirming a previous publication. The most interesting analysis in this study suggests that effective antirheumatic treatment, with traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), glucocorticoids, or anti-TNF biologics, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis. Some methodological issues are discussed, however, and confirmatory studies are suggested.
doi:10.1186/ar2364
PMCID: PMC2453770  PMID: 18341711
15.  Etanercept versus etanercept plus methotrexate: a registry-based study suggesting that the combination is clinically more efficacious 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2003;5(6):R347-R351.
Etanercept can be used both as monotherapy and in combination with methotrexate (MTX), but direct comparisons of these two options have not yet been reported. In order to compare the results seen in actual practice between these two options, clinical data on 97 patients followed in the Stockholm TNFα Follow-Up Registry were analysed. In 57 of these patients etanercept was added to previously started MTX while the others were treated with etanercept alone. The two groups had similar levels of disease activity at baseline. After 3 months, a significantly lower mean disease activity score (28-joint count-based disease activity score) was attained by the patients on etanercept plus MTX. In this group, the number of patients achieving European League Against Rheumatism-defined remission was also significantly greater. Other disease outcomes showed non-significant trends in the same direction. These data suggest that the combination of etanercept plus MTX is clinically more efficacious than etanercept alone.
doi:10.1186/ar1005
PMCID: PMC333416  PMID: 14680509
combination; etanercept; methotrexate; rheumatoid arthritis; treatment
16.  Belimumab in the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus: high disease activity predictors of response 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;71(8):1343-1349.
Objectives
To identify factors that predict response to belimumab treatment in the phase 3 BLISS trials of autoantibody-positive systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and further analyse clinical efficacy in various patient subsets.
Methods
The BLISS trials compared belimumab 1 and 10 mg/kg versus placebo, all plus standard SLE therapy, over 52 or 76 weeks. Pooled subgroup analyses of week 52 SLE responder index rates (the primary endpoint in both trials) were performed based on demographic characteristics and baseline disease activity indicators. Pooled multivariate analysis was performed to determine predictors of response and treatment effect.
Results
Pooled univariate and multivariate analyses (N=1684) identified baseline factors associated with an increased benefit of belimumab versus placebo. These factors included the Safety Of Estrogens In Lupus Erythematosus National Assessment–Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SELENA–SLEDAI) ≥10, low complement, anti-dsDNA positivity and corticosteroid use. Efficacy outcomes were assessed in the low complement/anti-dsDNA-positive and SELENA–SLEDAI ≥10 subgroups. Week 52 SLE Responder Index rates in the low complement/anti-dsDNA-positive subgroup were 31.7%, 41.5% (p=0.002) and 51.5% (p<0.001) with placebo and belimumab 1 mg/kg and 10 mg/kg, respectively; corresponding rates in the SELENA–SLEDAI ≥10 subgroup were 44.3%, 58.0% (p<0.001) and 63.2% (p<0.001). Further analysis of secondary endpoints in the low complement/anti-dsDNA-positive subgroup showed that compared with placebo, belimumab produced greater benefits regarding severe flares, corticosteroid use and health-related quality of life.
Conclusions
These findings suggest that belimumab has greater therapeutic benefit than standard therapy alone in patients with higher disease activity, anti-dsDNA positivity, low complement or corticosteroid treatment at baseline.
ClinicalTrials.gov
identifiers NCT00424476 and NCT00410384
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200937
PMCID: PMC3396451  PMID: 22337213
17.  Association of joint space narrowing with impairment of physical function and work ability in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis: protection beyond disease control by adalimumab plus methotrexate 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;72(7):1156-1162.
Objectives
Tumour necrosis factor inhibition plus methotrexate is believed to inhibit radiographic progression independent of inflammation. This analysis assessed whether these protective effects are exerted on bone (joint erosion; JE) and/or cartilage (joint space narrowing; JSN), and what the independent effects of JE/JSN progression are on longer-term patient-reported outcomes.
Methods
PREMIER was a 2-year, randomised, controlled trial of adalimumab plus methotrexate (ADA+MTX) versus the monotherapies. The impact of treatment on the relationships between time-averaged disease activity (TA-DAS28(CRP)) and changes in JE/JSN and associations of JE/JSN with the disability index of the health assessment questionnaire (HAQ-DI) at baseline and weeks 52 and 104 were assessed through non-parametric approaches of analysis of variance and quantile regression. JE/JSN association with employment status was evaluated at baseline and weeks 52 and 104 through logistic regression.
Results
Increasing tertiles of TA-DAS28(CRP) were associated with JE and JSN progression in the monotherapy groups, a phenomenon largely absent in ADA+MTX-treated patients. Although JSN was not associated with HAQ-DI at baseline, it was at 52 and 104 weeks. In contrast, JE was not associated with HAQ-DI at any time point examined. Odds of being employed at baseline, 52 weeks and 104 weeks were significantly associated with lower JSN, but not JE, scores.
Conclusions
ADA+MTX inhibited both JE and JSN progression independently of disease activity. JSN played a more prominent role in patient-reported outcomes than JE. Preventing the onset or worsening of JSN probably represents a critical aspect of effective disease management of early rheumatoid arthritis patients.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201620
PMCID: PMC3686261  PMID: 22915617
18.  Long-term safety of rituximab in rheumatoid arthritis: 9.5-year follow-up of the global clinical trial programme with a focus on adverse events of interest in RA patients 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;72(9):1496-1502.
Objectives
Evaluation of long-term safety of rituximab in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods
Pooled observed case analysis of data from patients with moderate-to-severe, active RA treated with rituximab in a global clinical trial programme.
Results
As of September 2010, 3194 patients had received up to 17 rituximab courses over 9.5 years (11 962 patient-years). Of these, 627 had >5 years’ follow-up (4418 patient-years). A pooled placebo population (n=818) (placebo+methotrexate (MTX)) was also analysed. Serious adverse event and infection rates generally remained stable over time and multiple courses. The overall serious infection event (SIE) rate was 3.94/100 patient-years (3.26/100 patient-years in patients observed for >5 years) and was comparable with placebo+MTX (3.79/100 patient-years). Serious opportunistic infections were rare. Overall, 22.4% (n=717) of rituximab-treated patients developed low immunoglobulin (Ig)M and 3.5% (n=112) low IgG levels for ≥4 months after ≥1 course. SIE rates were similar before and during/after development of low Ig levels; however, in patients with low IgG, rates were higher than in patients who never developed low IgG. Rates of myocardial infarction and stroke were consistent with rates in the general RA population. No increased risk of malignancy over time was observed.
Conclusions
This analysis demonstrates that rituximab remains generally well tolerated over time and multiple courses, with a safety profile consistent with published data and clinical trial experience. Overall, the findings indicate that there was no evidence of an increased safety risk or increased reporting rates of any types of adverse events with prolonged exposure to rituximab during the 9.5 years of observation.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201956
PMCID: PMC3756452  PMID: 23136242
Rheumatoid Arthritis; Treatment; B cells
19.  Dose REduction strategy of subcutaneous TNF inhibitors in rheumatoid arthritis: design of a pragmatic randomised non inferiority trial, the DRESS study 
Background
Preliminary, mostly uncontrolled studies suggest that dose reduction or discontinuation of tumour necrosis factor blockers can be achieved in a relevant proportion of patients with RA without loss of disease control. However, long term safety, cost effectiveness and feasibility in clinical practice remain uncertain.
Methods/Design
This study is a 18-months pragmatic, non-inferiority, cost minimalisation, randomized controlled trial on dose reduction and discontinuation of the subcutaneous tumour necrosis factor (TNF) blockers adalimumab and etanercept in RA patients with low disease activity. 180 RA patients with low disease activity (DAS28 < 3.2 or clinical judgment of the rheumatologist) are randomized 2:1 to either increased spacing and eventually discontinuation after 6 months of the TNF blocker, and usual care. Implementation is done in routine daily care, using treat to target and feedback implementation in both treatment arms. The primary outcome is non-inferiority (NI margin 20%) in cumulative incidence of persistent (> 3 months) RA flare, according to a recently validated DAS28 based flare criterion (DAS28 change > 1.2, or DAS28 increase of 0.6 and current DAS28 ≥ 3.2). Secondary outcomes include mean disease activity, function, radiographic progression, safety and cost effectiveness. Cost per quality adjusted life year (QALY) differences between groups are expressed as a decremental cost effectiveness ratio (DCER), i.e. saved costs divided by (possible) loss in QALY.
Discussion
The design of this study targeted several clinical and methodological issues on TNF blocker dose de-escalation, including how to taper the TNF blockers, the satisfactory control condition, how to define flare, implementation in clinical practice, and the choice of the non-inferiority margin. Pragmatic cost minimalisation studies using non-inferiority designs and DCERs will become more mainstream as cost effectiveness in healthcare gains importance.
Trial registration
Dutch Trial Register NTR3216, The study has received ethical review board approval (number NL37704.091.11)
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-299
PMCID: PMC4016115  PMID: 24152421
Rheumatoid arthritis; Dose reduction; Discontinuation; Anti TNF; Spacing; Randomised controlled trial; Non-inferiority; Cost minimalisation; Design; Decremental cost effectiveness ratio (DCER)
20.  Derivation and Validation of Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics Classification Criteria for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(8):2677-2686.
Objective
The Systemic Lupus Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) revised and validated the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) SLE classification criteria in order to improve clinical relevance, meet stringent methodology requirements and incorporate new knowledge in SLE immunology.
Methods
The classification criteria were derived from a set of 702 expert-rated patient scenarios. Recursive partitioning was used to derive an initial rule that was simplified and refined based on SLICC physician consensus. SLICC validated the classification criteria in a new validation sample of 690 SLE patients and controls.
Results
Seventeen criteria were identified. The SLICC criteria for SLE classification requires: 1) Fulfillment of at least four criteria, with at least one clinical criterion AND one immunologic criterion OR 2) Lupus nephritis as the sole clinical criterion in the presence of ANA or anti-dsDNA antibodies. In the derivation set, the SLICC classification criteria resulted in fewer misclassifications than the current ACR classification criteria (49 versus 70, p=0.0082), had greater sensitivity (94% versus 86%, p<0.0001) and equal specificity (92% versus 93%, p=0.39). In the validation set, the SLICC Classification criteria resulted in fewer misclassifications (62 versus 74, p=0.24), had greater sensitivity (97% versus 83%, p<0.0001) but less specificity (84% versus 96%, p<0.0001).
Conclusions
The new SLICC classification criteria performed well on a large set of patient scenarios rated by experts. They require that at least one clinical criterion and one immunologic criterion be present for a classification of SLE. Biopsy confirmed nephritis compatible with lupus (in the presence of SLE autoantibodies) is sufficient for classification.
doi:10.1002/art.34473
PMCID: PMC3409311  PMID: 22553077
21.  Updated consensus statement on the use of rituximab in patients with rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;70(6):909-920.
Background
Since initial approval for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), rituximab has been evaluated in clinical trials involving various populations with RA. Information has also been gathered from registries. This report therefore updates the 2007 consensus document on the use of rituximab in the treatment of RA.
Methods
Preparation of this new document involved many international experts experienced in the treatment of RA. Following a meeting to agree upon the core agenda, a systematic literature review was undertaken to identify all relevant data. Data were then interrogated by a drafting committee, with subsequent review and discussion by a wider expert committee leading to the formulation of an updated consensus statement. These committees also included patients with RA.
Results
The new statement covers wide-ranging issues including the use of rituximab in earlier RA and impact on structural progression, and aspects particularly pertinent to rituximab such as co-medication, optimal dosage regimens, repeat treatment cycles and how to manage non-response. Biological therapy following rituximab usage is also addressed, and safety concerns including appropriate screening for hepatitis, immunoglobulin levels and infection risk. This consensus statement will support clinicians and inform patients when using B-cell depletion in the management of RA, providing up-to-date information and highlighting areas for further research.
Conclusion
New therapeutic strategies and treatment options for RA, a chronic destructive and disabling disease, have expanded over recent years. These have been summarised in general strategic suggestions and specific management recommendations, emphasising the importance of expedient disease-modifying antirheumatic drug implementation and tight disease control. This consensus statement is in line with these fundamental principles of management.
doi:10.1136/ard.2010.144998
PMCID: PMC3086093  PMID: 21378402
22.  Skewed distribution of proinflammatory CD4+CD28null T cells in rheumatoid arthritis 
Expanded populations of CD4+ T cells lacking the co-stimulatory molecule CD28 (CD4+CD28null T cells) have been reported in several inflammatory disorders. In rheumatoid arthritis, increased frequencies of CD4+CD28null T cells in peripheral blood have previously been associated with extra-articular manifestations and human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection, but their presence in and contribution to joint manifestations is not clear. In the present article we investigated the distribution of CD4+CD28null T cells in the synovial membrane, synovial fluid and peripheral blood of RA patients, and analysed the association with erosive disease and anti-citrullinated protein antibodies. CD4+CD28null T cells were infrequent in the synovial membrane and synovial fluid, despite significant frequencies in the circulation. Strikingly, the dominant TCR-Vβ subsets of CD4+CD28null T cells in peripheral blood were often absent in synovial fluid. CD4+CD28null T cells in blood and synovial fluid showed specificity for HCMV antigens, and their presence was clearly associated with HCMV seropositivity but not with anti-citrullinated protein antibodies in the serum or synovial fluid, nor with erosive disease. Together these data imply a primary role for CD4+CD28null T cells in manifestations elsewhere than in the joints of patients with HCMV-seropositive rheumatoid arthritis.
doi:10.1186/ar2286
PMCID: PMC2212553  PMID: 17825098
23.  Joint European League Against Rheumatism and European Renal Association–European Dialysis and Transplant Association (EULAR/ERA-EDTA) recommendations for the management of adult and paediatric lupus nephritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;71(11):1771-1782.
Objectives
To develop recommendations for the management of adult and paediatric lupus nephritis (LN).
Methods
The available evidence was systematically reviewed using the PubMed database. A modified Delphi method was used to compile questions, elicit expert opinions and reach consensus.
Results
Immunosuppressive treatment should be guided by renal biopsy, and aiming for complete renal response (proteinuria <0.5 g/24 h with normal or near-normal renal function). Hydroxychloroquine is recommended for all patients with LN. Because of a more favourable efficacy/toxicity ratio, as initial treatment for patients with class III–IVA or A/C (±V) LN according to the International Society of Nephrology/Renal Pathology Society 2003 classification, mycophenolic acid (MPA) or low-dose intravenous cyclophosphamide (CY) in combination with glucocorticoids is recommended. In patients with adverse clinical or histological features, CY can be prescribed at higher doses, while azathioprine is an alternative for milder cases. For pure class V LN with nephrotic-range proteinuria, MPA in combination with oral glucocorticoids is recommended as initial treatment. In patients improving after initial treatment, subsequent immunosuppression with MPA or azathioprine is recommended for at least 3 years; in such cases, initial treatment with MPA should be followed by MPA. For MPA or CY failures, switching to the other agent, or to rituximab, is the suggested course of action. In anticipation of pregnancy, patients should be switched to appropriate medications without reducing the intensity of treatment. There is no evidence to suggest that management of LN should differ in children versus adults.
Conclusions
Recommendations for the management of LN were developed using an evidence-based approach followed by expert consensus.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201940
PMCID: PMC3465859  PMID: 22851469

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