It is well recognized that medication adherence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients is often poor. As less attention has been paid to physicians' adherence to targeted treatment, we aimed to investigate how it affects outcomes in aggressively treated early RA patients.
In the new Finnish RA Combination Therapy (NEO-RACo) trial, 99 patients with early active RA were treated, targeting remission, with a combination of methotrexate, sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine, and low-dose prednisolone for 2 years, and randomized to receive infliximab or placebo for the initial 6 months. After 2 years, therapy was unrestricted while remission was still targeted. Patients were divided into tertiles by physicians' adherence to treat-to-target, which was evaluated with a scoring system during the initial 2 years. After 5 years of follow-up, the between-tertile differences in remission rates, 28-joint Disease Activity Score (DAS28) levels, radiological changes, cumulative days off work, and the use of anti-rheumatic medication were assessed.
Follow-up data were available for 93 patients. Physicians' good adherence was associated with improved remission rates at 2-4 years and lower DAS28 levels throughout the follow-up. In a multivariable model, physicians' adherence was the most important predictor of remission at 3 months and 2 years (p