Two men on tight ropes

When physicians aim to achieve remission for rheumatoid arthritis patients, the patients fare better than do those whose doctors target low disease activity. That’s according to new research published in Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases.

Gülşah Akdemir, of Leiden University Medical Center in The Netherlands, and colleagues compared five-year results within two studies. From one, they selected 133 early active rheumatoid arthritis patients, and from another, 175 patients with early RA. The first group, treated with methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and prednisone was targeted with a disease activity score (DAS) of less than 2.4 on a scale of zero to 10. The latter group, which received methotrexate and prednisone, had a target of 1.6 on that scale, which represents remission.

The researchers found that both groups achieved 2.4 DAS scores at similar rates, but more of the group steered toward DAS 1.6 achieved remission and drug-free remission, Akdemir and colleagues write. The group with the 1.6 DAS target achieved remission at a rate of 51 percent, compared to 30 percent in the 2.4 DAS group, and five years out. The 1.6 DAS group was four times likelier to achieve drug-free remission, reports MedPage.

But there are risks too. “It’s possible that continuing to pursue remission once a patient is in low disease activity may provide additional clinical benefits, but for some patients this may result in more adverse events and higher costs, the team noted,” MedPage adds.