Patients with rheumatoid arthritis using tumor necrosis factor inhibitors do not appear to have a lower rate of joint replacement when compared with patients taking conventional synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, according to an analysis of data in the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register for RA.
Although there was not a general protective effect, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who were 60 years or older had a 40% reduction in total hip replacement (THR) when using tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFi), according to first authorfrom the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics in the Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences at the University of Oxford (England) and his colleagues.
“While a reduction in THR amongst older TNFi users offers some support for biologics playing a role in reducing need for joint replacement, it must also be noted that the lack of an overall protective effect is suggestive that other factors apart from TNFi are likely to be involved in the ... downward population trends in joint replacement rates in RA,” Mr. Hawley and his colleagues wrote in theirpublished in the journal Rheumatology.
The researchers analyzed prospectively collected data on 11,202 RA patients from the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register for RA (BSRBR-RA) from 2001-2016 who were using TNFi (n = 9,558) or conventional synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (csDMARDs; n = 1,644). Patients had a median disease duration of 11.0 years in the TNFi group and 10.8 years in the csDMARD group. TNFi and csDMARD users were matched based on their propensity to receive treatment, and researchers used a Cox regression analysis to compare the rates of total knee replacement (TKR), THR, and other joint replacement. The researchers utilized each csDMARD user a median of three times (interquartile range, one to six) in the comparisons.
The incidence rate for THR was 5.22/1,000 person-years for TNFi users and 6.30/1,000 person-years for csDMARD users, while the incidence rate for TKR was 8.89/1,000 person-years for TNFi users and 8.09/1,000 person-years for csDMARD users. Mr. Hawley and his colleagues found no association between TNFi use and THR when compared with csDMARD users (adjusted pooled hazard ratio, 0.86; 95% confidence interval, 0.60-1.22; P = .39) based on 589 THRs during follow-up. There was also no association between the incidence of TKR and TNFi use when compared with csDMARD users (adjusted pooled HR, 1.11; 95% CI, 0.84-1.47; P = .46) based on 846 TKRs during follow-up. When the researchers examined 336 other joint replacements performed during follow-up, there was also no significant difference in incidence between TNFi and csDMARD users (HR, 1.15; 95% CI, 0.75-1.77).
For patients 60 years or older, TNFi use was associated with a 40% reduction in THR incidence (HR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.41-0.87; P = .008), but not in TKR incidence. However, younger patients using TNFi did not have a reduced incidence of THR, and there were no associations between TNFi use and incidence of TKR or other joint replacements.
“It could be that the relatively long disease duration at our baseline meant there was greater potential for prevention of joint destruction at the hip over knee, although details of differential natural history of RA disease at these two joints are not well established,” the researchers wrote. “It is also very difficult to disentangle the impact of TNFi on improved function and overall quality of life and how this may have mediated effects on longer-term progression of joint damage, potentially differentially at the knee and hip.”
The researchers said the study was limited by the potential for residual confounding by indication, and the long disease duration of patients means that the results would not be generalizable to patients with early RA. In addition, underreporting of joint replacement could create bias because the registry information is a combination of physician-reported and self-reported incidences, they added.
This study was funded by an award from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and support from the Oxford NIHR Biomedical Research Unit. Four authors disclosed financial relationships with industry, including many companies marketing biologics for RA. Other authors reported no relevant conflicts of interest.
SOURCE: Hawley S et al. Rheumatology. 2019 Jan 10. .