Increased radiographic progression of distal hand osteoarthritis occurring during biologic DMARD monotherapy for concomitant rheumatoid arthritis.

Lechtenboehmer, C A; Burkard, T; Reichenbach, S.; Walker, U A; Burden, A M; Hügle, T (2021). Increased radiographic progression of distal hand osteoarthritis occurring during biologic DMARD monotherapy for concomitant rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis research & therapy, 23(1), p. 267. BioMed Central 10.1186/s13075-021-02654-0

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A considerable proportion of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) also suffer from hand osteoarthritis (OA). We here assess the association between conventional synthetic (cs) and biological (b) disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and radiographic distal interphalangeal-(DIP) OA in patients with RA.


Adult RA patients from a longitudinal Swiss registry of rheumatic diseases who had ≥ 2 hand radiographs were included at the first radiograph and followed until the outcome or the last radiograph. Patients were grouped into two cohorts based on whether DIP OA was present or absent at cohort entry (cohorts 1 and 2, respectively). Modified Kellgren-Lawrence scores (KLS) were obtained by evaluating DIP joints for the severity of osteophytes, joint space narrowing, subchondral sclerosis, and erosions. KLS ≥ 2 in ≥ 1 DIP joint indicated incident or existing OA, and increase of ≥ 1 in KLS in ≥ 1 DIP joint indicated progression in existing DIP OA. Time-varying Cox regression and generalized estimating equation (GEE) analyses were performed. We estimated hazard ratios (HRs) and odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) of DIP OA incidence (cohort 2), or progression (cohort 1), in bDMARD monotherapy, bDMARD/csDMARD combination therapy, and past or never DMARD use, when compared to csDMARD use. In post hoc analyses, we descriptively and analytically assessed the individual KLS features in cohort 1.


Among 2234 RA patients with 5928 radiographs, 1340 patients had DIP OA at baseline (cohort 1). Radiographic progression of DIP OA was characterized by new or progressive osteophyte formation (666, 52.4%), joint space narrowing (379, 27.5%), subchondral sclerosis (238, 17.8%), or erosions (62, 4.3%). bDMARD monotherapy had an increased risk of radiographic DIP OA progression compared to csDMARD monotherapy (adjusted HR 1.34 [95% CI 1.07-1.69]). The risk was not significant in csDMARD/bDMARD combination users (HR 1.12 [95% CI 0.96-1.31]), absent in past DMARD users (HR 0.96 [95% CI 0.66-1.41]), and significantly lower among never DMARD users (HR 0.54 [95% CI 0.33-0.90]). Osteophyte progression (HR 1.74 [95% CI 1.11-2.74]) was the most significantly increased OA feature with bDMARD use compared to csDMARD use. In 894 patients without initial DIP OA (cohort 2), the risk of incident OA did not differ between the treatment groups. The results from GEE analyses corroborated all findings.


These real-world RA cohort data indicate that monotherapy with bDMARDs is associated with increased radiographic progression of existing DIP OA, but not with incident DIP OA.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Dermatology, Urology, Rheumatology, Nephrology, Osteoporosis (DURN) > Clinic of Rheumatology, Clinical Immunology and Allergology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

UniBE Contributor:

Reichenbach, Stephan


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




BioMed Central




Andrea Flükiger-Flückiger

Date Deposited:

05 Nov 2021 19:00

Last Modified:

03 Jan 2023 12:06

Publisher DOI:


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