Low-Dose Short-Term Monotherapy with Glucocorticoids May be an Option to DMARDs in Newly Diagnosed Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

BACKGROUND: The ACR/EULAR recommendations endorse the use of glucocorticoids (GCs) for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients’ flares and as a bridge to a DMARD. However, the recommendation of low dose short-term monotherapy with (GCs) remains open to the discretion of the clinician. The aim of this study was to assess whether a short-term use of low dose prednisone monotherapy was effective in inducing remission in newly diagnosed RA patients.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis of patients newly diagnosed with RA at a Community Health Center in North Dakota was performed based on the ACR/EULAR RA classification criteria. Demographic and clinical data were abstracted from patients’ medical charts. Patients treated with (< 10 mg/day) of prednisone up to 6 months were included. Response to prednisone was analyzed according to pre- and post-treatment DAS28-ESR score and EULAR response criteria.

RESULTS: Data on 201 patients were analyzed. The mean prednisone dose was 8 mg/day (range: 5-10; SD = 1.2) and the mean treatment duration was 42.2 days (12-177; 16.9). Disease severity significantly improved from baseline to follow-up for: tender joint count (8.6 ± 4.8 vs. 1.5 ± 3.3; P < 0.001), swollen joint count (6.2 ± 5.0 vs. 1.4 ± 3.0; P < 0.001), and visual analog pain score (4.8 ± 2.6 vs. 2.1 ± 2.5; P < 0.001). DAS28-ESR disease severity significantly improved from baseline to follow-up: (5.1 ± 1.2 vs. 2.7 ± 1.3; P < 0.001). Per EULAR response criteria, 69.7% of patients showed good response to treatment and 20.4% showed moderate response. 54.2% of patients reached remission.

CONCLUSION: Short-term use of low dose prednisone monotherapy induced disease remission and improved clinical severity of RA in the majority of newly diagnosed patients.

Stacy JM, et al. The efficacy of low dose short-term prednisone therapy for remission induction in newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients. Adv Rheumatol. 2021 Aug 9;61(1):50. doi: 10.1186/s42358-021-00205-4.