Combination conventional DMARDs compared to biologicals: What is the evidence?

Manpreet K. Sethi, James R. O'Dell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Dramatic improvement seen in the prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis has been driven by higher expectations, led by newer drugs and more intensive use of the older drugs. Although methotrexate has retained its place as the first-line agent, there has been great interest in comparing biologicals to conventional Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) over the past few years with the updated guidelines from both the American College of Rheumatology and European League Against Rheumatism. We have tried to critically summarize the findings of some landmark trials that compare these two approaches. RECENT FINDINGS: Treatment of Early Rheumatoid Arthritis, The Swedish Pharmacotherapy study and Rheumatoid Arthritis Comparison of Active Therapies are landmark trials that were designed to compare strategies using biologicals vs. conventional DMARDs. We will review the safety and efficacy data from these three trials here and also briefly the important cost differential. CONCLUSION: Methotrexate should be the first-line therapy for most rheumatoid arthritis patients and will produce the desired results in greater than one-third of the patients. When methotrexate is not adequate, triple DMARD therapy should be added which will result in control of approximately another one-third of the patients. Ultimately, and usually before 1 year of disease, the remainder of patients will require biological therapies usually added to conventional DMARDs. There is no evidence that this step-up approach results in any long-term disadvantage and good evidence that it results in substantial cost savings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-188
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent opinion in rheumatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 6 2015


  • biologics
  • combination therapy
  • conventional
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • triple therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology


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