To determine if aggressive treatment initiated early in the course of rheumatoid factor positive or negative polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (poly-JIA) can induce clinical inactive disease (CID) within 6 months.
Between May 2007 and October 2010 a multi-center, prospective, double blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial of two aggressive treatments was conducted in 85 children aged 2 to 16 years with polyarticular JIA of less than 12 months duration. Patients received either methotrexate 0.5 mg/kg/wk SQ (40 mg max), etanercept 0.8 mg/kg/wk (50 mg max), prednisolone 0.5 mg/kg/d (60 mg max) tapered to 0 by 17 weeks (Arm 1), or methotrexate (same dose as Arm 1), etanercept placebo, and prednisolone placebo (Arm 2). The primary outcome was CID at 6 months. An exploratory phase determined the rate of clinical remission on medication (6 months of continuous CID) at 12 months.
By 6 months, 17 of 42 (40%) of patients in Arm 1 and 10 of 43 (23%) in Arm 2 had achieved CID (X2 = 2.91; p = 0.088). After 12 months, 9 patients in Arm 1 and 3 in Arm 2 achieved clinical remission on medication (p = 0.0534). There were no significant inter-arm differences in adverse events.
Although this study did not meet its primary endpoint, early aggressive therapy in this cohort of children with recent onset polyarticular JIA resulted in substantial proportions of patients in both arms achieving CID by 6 months and clinical remission on medication within 12 months of treatment.