In the first study of its kind, researchers investigated whether giving a combination of drugs at the onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) would be better than using 1 alone. Traditionally, methotrexate has been used to treat RA. Yet, 2 out of 3 patients do not respond well to it, the researchers reported.
For the study, researchers administered methotrexate or etanercept (Enbrel, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals) or both drugs to 682 patients. Enbrel is part of a class of medicines that target an inflammation-causing protein called tumor necrosis factor. These drugs have helped individuals who have not responded to methotrexate.
The researchers analyzed the data and found that, after 1 year of treatment, 35% of the patients in the combination group were in remission, compared with 13% of those on methotrexate alone and 16% of those on Enbrel alone. Also, no additional deterioration of joints was noted in 80% of the patients on combination treatment, compared with 68% of those on methotrexate and 57% of those on Enbrel alone. (These findings were published recently in The Lancet.)