Lowering Expectations: Glucocorticoid Tapering Among Veterans With Rheumatoid Arthritis Achieving Low Disease Activity on Stable Biologic Therapy

Beth I. Wallace, Bryant R. England, Joshua F. Baker, Jorge Rojas, Brian C. Sauer, Punyasha Roul, Gary A. Kunkel, Tawnie J. Braaten, Alison Petro, Ted R. Mikuls, Grant W. Cannon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: In the Steroid EliMination In Rheumatoid Arthritis (SEMIRA) trial, 65% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in low disease activity (LDA) on stable biologic therapy successfully tapered glucocorticoids. We aimed to evaluate real-world rates of glucocorticoid tapering among similar patients in the Veterans Affairs Rheumatoid Arthritis registry. Methods: Within a multicenter, prospective RA cohort, we used registry data and linked pharmacy claims from 2003 to 2021 to identify chronic prednisone users achieving LDA after initiating a new biologic or targeted synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (b/tsDMARD). We defined the index date as first LDA occurring 60 to 180 days after b/tsDMARD initiation. The primary outcome of successful tapering, assessed at day 180 after LDA, required a 30-day averaged prednisone dose both less than or equal to 5mg/day and at least 50% lower than at the index date. The secondary outcome was discontinuation, defined as a prednisone dose of 0 mg/day at days 180 through 210. We used univariate statistics to compare patient characteristics by fulfillment of the primary outcome. Results: We evaluated 100 b/tsDMARD courses among 95 patients. Fifty-four courses resulted in successful tapering; 33 resulted in discontinuation. Positive rheumatoid factor, higher erythrocyte sedimentation rate, more background DMARDs, shorter time from b/tsDMARD initiation to LDA, and higher glucocorticoid dose 30 days before LDA were associated with greater likelihood of successful tapering. Conclusion: In a real-world RA cohort of chronic glucocorticoid users in LDA, half successfully tapered and a third discontinued prednisone within 6 months of initiating a new b/tsDMARD. Claims-based algorithms of glucocorticoid tapering and discontinuation may be useful to evaluate predictors of tapering in administrative data sets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-442
Number of pages6
JournalACR Open Rheumatology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology


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