Clinical remission can be maintained after the discontinuation of biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs) in some patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (bDMARD-free remission (BFR)

Patients with RA were enrolled from a Japanese multicenter observational registry. Patients with RA who achieved clinical remission (Disease Activity Score 28-C-reactive protein < 2.3) at the time of bDMARD discontinuation were included.

Serial disease activities and treatment changes were followed up. BFR was considered to have failed if the disease activity exceeded the remission cutoff value or if bDMARDs were restarted.

Results

Overall, 181 RA patients were included. BFR was maintained in 21.5% of patients at one year after bDMARD discontinuation. BFR was more successfully achieved after discontinuation of anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) monoclonal antibodies, followed by CTLA4-Ig (abatacept), soluble TNF receptor or Fab fragments against TNF fused with polyethylene glycol (etanercept and certolizumab), and anti-interleukin-6 receptor Ab (tocilizumab).

After multivariate analysis, sustained remission (> 6 months), Boolean remission, no glucocorticoid use at the time of bDMARD discontinuation, and use of TNFi(mAb) or CTLA4-Ig remained as independent factors associated with BFR.

In this study, we analyzed favorable conditions for BFR achievement after bDMARD discontinuation in typical clinical practice using a multicenter RA registry in Japan (the ANSWER cohort).

They found the following: BFR was achieved in 21.5% of patients at 1 year after bDMARD discontinuation in typical clinical practice; TNFi(mAb) or CTLA4-Ig was advantageous for achieving BFR compared with TNFi(R/P) or IL-6Ri; and sustained remission, Boolean remission, and glucocorticoid-free medication at the time of bDMARD discontinuation were important factors associated with a decreased risk of BFR failure.

BFR can be achieved in some patients with RA after bDMARD discontinuation in clinical practice. Use of TNFi(mAb) or CTLA4-Ig, sustained remission, Boolean remission, and no glucocorticoid use at the time of bDMARD discontinuation are advantageous for achieving BFR.