A meta-analysis of the efficacy and toxicity of combining disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs in rheumatoid arthritis based on patient withdrawal.
OBJECTIVE To determine whether patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treated with cyclosporin A (CsA) and methotrexate (MTX) in combination for 12 months show a lower rate of radiographic deterioration than those treated with MTX alone. METHODS In this controlled and randomized single-blind trial, 61 consecutive patients with untreated RA of less than 2 yr duration were treated with either CsA + MTX combination therapy (n = 30) or MTX alone (n = 31). The primary end-point was radiographic progression after 12 months, measured using the damage score (DS) of the Sharp and van der Heijde method. RESULTS Although there was a significant difference between the mean baseline and 12-month DS in both treatment groups (MTX/CsA, 1.93 +/- 0.90; MTX, 7.47 +/- 2.03), it was significantly less in the combination arm (P = 0.018). Of the 30 evaluable CsA + MTX patients, 16 (53%) were ACR20 responders, 15 (50%) ACR50 and 14 (47%) ACR70; the corresponding figures in the MTX arm were 19 (61%), 13 (44%) and 6 (19%). Toxicity was acceptable in both groups. CONCLUSIONS In patients with early RA, CsA + MTX combination therapy led to a significantly lower rate of 12-month radiographic progression, was effective on inflammatory articular symptoms, and was well tolerated.