PURPOSE: The aims of this study were (1) to assess the frequency and duration of drug-free remission and efficacy of etanercept (ETA) treatment after flare in patients with early active axial spondyloarthritis who were treated with ETA (n=40) versus sulfasalazine (SSZ, n=36) for 48 weeks and (2) to analyse the efficacy of ETA treatment in patients in year 2 who did not reach remission at week 48.
METHOD: At week 48, patients who reached study remission (Assessment of Spondyloarthritis international Society (ASAS) plus MRI remission) were followed up without active treatment up to 1 year. In case of a flare, patients were treated with ETA for another year. All patients who were not in ASAS plus MRI remission at week 48 were treated with ETA in year 2.
RESULTS: ASAS plus MRI remission at week 48 was reached significantly more often in ETA-treated compared to SSZ-treated patients (33% vs 11%, p=0.03). However, the flare rate was not different between these two groups: 69% in the ETA group versus 75% in the SSZ group. Only 8% of patients initially treated with ETA versus 3% of those initially treated with SSZ reached permanent drug-free remission (not significant). After treatment with ETA over 1 year, patients with flare showed an improvement in all clinical and imaging variables.
CONCLUSION: Patients with axial spondyloarthritis treated with ETA over 1 year did not reach drug-free remission in a higher percentage compared to patients from a control group treated with SSZ.
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