Effectiveness and tolerability of oral versus subcutaneous methotrexate in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The aim of this study was to compare the effectiveness and tolerability between oral methotrexate (MTX) and subcutaneous MTX in a large group of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in a real-life setting.In this retrospective cohort study, adult patients with clinical diagnosis of RA who started MTX treatment (monotherapy or combined with hydroxychloroquine), either started with oral or subcutaneous MTX. The primary outcome was superiority testing of between group difference in change in DAS28CRP between baseline and 3-6 months, and subsequent non inferiority testing (NI margin 0.6) analyses in case of non-superiority. Secondary outcomes included MTX dose, side effects, laboratory abnormalities, and use of comedication.640 RA patients were included: 259 started with oral MTX and 381 with subcutaneous. There was no significant difference in ΔDAS28CRP, after adjusting for confounding, 0.13 (95%-CI: -0.14, 0.40), and oral MTX strategy was non inferior to subcutaneous. The mean MTX dose was slightly lower for the oral strategy (18.0 SD6.9 vs 19.9 SD8.2, p= 0.002), which was accompanied by a lower cumulative incidence of adverse events (41% vs 52%, p= 0.005). No differences were seen in use of other comedication.Starting with oral MTX in RA in a real-life setting is non inferior to a subcutaneous MTX treatment with regard to disease activity control, at least when used in dosages up to 25 mg and on a background of HCQ cotreatment and a treat-to-target approach. In addition, tolerability was better. This supports the strategy of starting with oral MTX.

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Authors: Janne Heuvelmans, Nathan den Broeder, Geke A H van den Elsen, Alfons A den Broeder, Bart J F van den Bemt