Objectives. We examined whether the addition of another conventional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to methotrexate (MTX) upon infliximab (IFX) discontinuation in well-controlled rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients could suppress subsequent disease flare. Methods. RA patients maintaining DAS28-CRP (Disease Activity Score of 28 joints with C-reactive protein) scores < 2.6 for ≥ 6 months with IFX were randomized either to receive addition of bucillamine (BUC) to MTX (BUC + MTX group; n = 24) or not (MTX group; n = 31) upon discontinuing IFX. The primary endpoint was the flare rate within 2 years of IFX discontinuation. Results. Six patients discontinuing MTX during the study were excluded from analyses. Seventeen patients (63.0%) experienced flares in the MTX group, which was significantly reduced in the BUC + MTX group (31.8%; p = 0.045). Further, the flare rates differed significantly between remission and non-remission by a Boolean definition upon IFX discontinuation in the MTX group (40.0% vs. 91.7%, respectively; p = 0.014), but they were comparable in the BUC + MTX group. BUC treatment was interrupted in seven patients due to rash, proteinuria and incompliance. Conclusions. DMARDs combination therapy may be a better treatment strategy than MTX monotherapy for maintaining RA control after successful discontinuation of biological agents.
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