FRIDAY, Aug. 19, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Combined treatment with two drugs, adalimumab and methotrexate, is about five times more effective than using methotrexate alone in treating rheumatoid arthritis, according to a new scientific review.
Spanish researchers reviewed the results of six studies that included nearly 2,400 people who'd had rheumatoid arthritis for at least 10 years. The review authors concluded that adalimumab (brand name Humira) plus methotrexate decreased pain and swelling in patients who failed to respond to standard treatment.
After six months, 43 percent of the patients on adalimumab plus methotrexate experienced a 50 percent improvement in symptoms, compared with 9 percent of patients receiving placebo plus methotrexate.
The authors said that adalimumab is even more active when combined with methotrexate.
"More people had improved symptoms with adalimumab alone than with fake injections, but the improvement was not as much as when adalimumab was taken in combination with methotrexate," the authors wrote.
"What we might be seeing here is a synergistic effect," arthritis expert Dr. Scott Zashin, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, said in a prepared statement.
"Doctors and patients need to know, and this review supports the claim, that combination therapy will generally have a more robust effect, though some patients will do well on either drug alone. For patients with long-standing disease, this review affirms combination therapy as the standard of care," Zashin said.
The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, dedicated to evaluating medical research.
The Arthritis Foundation has more about rheumatoid arthritis.