Background Remission is the primary objective of treating juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). It is still debatable whether early intensive treatment is superior in terms of earlier achievement of remission. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of early etanercept+methotrexate (ETA+MTX) combination therapy versus step-up MTX monotherapy with ETA added in refractory disease.
Methods A multi-centre, double-blind, randomized study in active polyarticular JIA patients treated with either ETA+MTX (n=35) or placebo+MTX (n=33) for up to 24 weeks, followed by a 24-week open-label phase. The efficacy endpoints included pedACR30 criteria improvement at week 12, inactive disease at week 24, and remission at week 48. Patients who failed to achieve the endpoints at week 12 or at week 24 escaped to open-label ETA+MTX. Safety was assessed at each visit.
Results By intention-to-treat analysis, more patients in the ETA+MTX group reached the pedACR30 response at week 12 (33 (94.3%)) than in the placebo+MTX group (20 (60.6%); p=0.001). At week 24, comparable percentages of patients reached inactive disease (11 (31.4%) vs 11 (33.3%)). At week 48, 11 (31.4%) and eight (24.2%) patients achieved remission. The median (+/-IQR) times to achieve an inactive disease state in the ETA+MTX and placebo+MTX groups were 24 (14–32) and 32 (24–40) weeks, respectively. Forty-four (74/100 patient-years) adverse events (AEs) were reported, leading to treatment discontinuation in 6 patients.
Conclusions Early combination therapy with ETA+MTX proved to be highly effective compared to the standard step-up regimen. Compared to those treated with the standard regimen, more patients treated with a combination of ETA+MTX reached the pedACR30 response and achieved inactive disease and remission more rapidly.
The study was registered by the European Clinical Trials Database (EudraCT) as 2015-003384-11 on 07-21-2014.