Combination arthritis drug therapy has shown no longterm benefit for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). As reported in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease (August 2003), French researchers have found that combination doses of methotrexate and sulfasalazine do not appear more beneficial than either drug administered alone for the early treatment of RA.
Research had suggested that RA patients who receive early intensive combination therapy with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs may show a decreased rate of progression of the disease and that this effect may be lasting, according to Maxime Dougados, MD, of Cochin Hospital, Paris, and colleagues. Therefore, the research team continued to follow 146 RA patients who had participated in a 1-year trial in which they had been randomly assigned to receive methotrexate or sulfasalazine alone or in combination. Over the course of 4 years, the patients were seen by their own rheumatologist, who could specify further treatment.
After 5 years, 62% of the participants were considered in remission. At the beginning of the trial and after 5 years, however, patients primarily receiving single or combined drug treatment had similar disease activity scores, x-ray scores, and health assessment questionnaire responses.