BACKGROUND: To investigate the frequency of achievement of inactive disease (ID) in children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) treated with methotrexate (MTX) as the sole disease-modifyng antirheumatic (DMARD) therapy and to develop a prediction model for lack of attainment of ID.
METHODS: The clinical charts of consecutive patients started with MTX as the sole DMARD between 2000 and 2013 were reviewed. Patient follow-up was censored at first episode of ID or, in case ID was not reached, at last follow-up visit or when a biologic DMARD was prescribed. The characteristic at MTX start of patients who achieved or did not achieve ID were compared with univariate and multivariable analyses. Regression coefficients (β) of variables that entered the best-fitting logistic regression model were converted and summed to obtain a "prediction score" for lack of achievement of ID.
RESULTS: A total of 375 patients were included in the study. During MTX administration, 8.8% were given systemic corticosteroids and 44.1% intra-articular corticosteroids. After MTX start, 229 (61%) patients achieved ID after a median of 1.7 years, whereas 146 patients (39%) did not reach ID after a median of 1.2 years. On multivariable analysis, independent correlations with lack of achievement of ID were identified for the disease categories of systemic arthritis, enthesitis-related arthritis (ERA) and polyarthritis and C-reactive protein (CRP) > 1.4 mg/dl. The prediction score ranged from 0 to 3 and its cutoff that discriminated best between patients who achieved or did not achieve ID was > 0.5. The categories of systemic arthritis or ERA, both of which had a score greater than 0.5, were sufficient alone to predict a lower likelihood to reach ID. Polyarthritis and increased CRP, whose score was 0.5, assumed a predictive value only when present in association.
CONCLUSION: A conventional treatment regimen based on MTX as the sole DMARD led to achievement of ID in a sizeable proportion of children with JIA. Our findings help to outline the characteristics of patients who may deserve a synthetic DMARD other than MTX or the introduction of a biologic DMARD from disease outset.