Flare Rate in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis in Low Disease Activity or Remission When Tapering or Stopping Synthetic or Biologic DMARD: A Systematic Review

Martijn Kuijper, FBG Lamers-Karnebeek, JWG Jacobs, Mieke Hazes, J.J. Luime

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Objective. To evaluate the risk of having a disease flare in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with low disease activity (LDA) or in remission when deescalating (tapering or stopping) disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) therapy. Methods. A search in medical databases including publications from January 1950 to February 2015 was performed. Included were trials and observational studies in adults with RA who were in LDA or remission, evaluating >= 20 patients tapering or stopping DMARD. Flare rates had to have been reported. A metaanalysis was performed on studies deescalating tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers. Results. Four studies evaluated synthetic DMARD. Flare rates ranged from 8% at 24 weeks to 63% at 4 months after deescalation. Fifteen studies reported on TNF blockers. Estimated flare rates by metaanalysis on studies tapering or stopping TNF blockers were 0.26 (95% CI 0.17-0.39) and 0.49 (95% CI 0.27-0.73) for good-quality and moderate-quality studies, respectively. Flare rates in 3 studies stopping tocilizumab were 41% after 6 months, 55% at 1 year, and 87% at 1 year. Flare rates in 3 studies deescalating abatacept were 34% at 1 year, 41% at 1 year, and 72% at 6 months. Five studies evaluating radiographic progression in patients deescalating treatment all found limited to no progression. Conclusion. Results suggest that more than one-third of patients with RA with LDA or in remission may taper or stop DMARD treatment without experiencing a disease flare within the first year. Dose reduction of TNF blockers results in lower flare rates than stopping and may be noninferior to continuing full dose. Radiological progression after treatment deescalation remains low, but may increase slightly.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)2012-2022
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Research programs

  • EMC MUSC-01-31-01

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