Does persistence to methotrexate treatment in early rheumatoid arthritis have a familial component?

Anton Öberg Sysojev*, Thomas Frisell, Bénédicte Delcoigne, Saedis Saevarsdottir, Johan Askling, Helga Westerlind

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objectives: To assess whether persistence to treatment with methotrexate (MTX) in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is shared among first-degree relatives with RA and to estimate any underlying heritability. Methods: First-degree relative pairs diagnosed with RA 1999–2018 and starting MTX (in monotherapy) as their first disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) treatment were identified by linking the Swedish Rheumatology Quality Register to national registers. Short- and long-term persistence to MTX was defined as remaining on treatment at 1 and 3 years, respectively, with no additional DMARDs added. We assessed familial aggregation through relative risks (RR) using log-binomial regression with robust standard errors and estimated heritability using tetrachoric correlations. We also explored the familial aggregation of EULAR treatment response after 3 and 6 months. To mimic the clinical setting, we also tested the association between having a family history of MTX persistence and persistence within the index patient. Results: Familial persistence was not associated with persistence at 1 (RR=1.02, 95% CI 0.87–1.20), only at 3 (RR=1.41, 95% CI 1.14–1.74) years. Heritability at 1 and 3 years was estimated to be 0.08 (95% CI 0–0.43) and 0.58 (95% CI 0.27–0.89), respectively. No significant associations were found between family history and EULAR response at 3 and 6 months, neither overall nor in the clinical setting analysis. Conclusions: Our findings imply a familial component, including a possible genetic element, within the long-term persistence to MTX following RA diagnosis. Whether this component is reflective of characteristics of the underlying RA disease or determinants for sustained response to MTX in itself will require further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number185
Pages (from-to)185
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Open access funding provided by Karolinska Institute. HW received support for the project from Stiftelsen Anna och Emil Olssons fond, Reumatikerförbundet [grant no R-940868]; Stiftelsen Professor Nanna Svartz Fond [grant no 2020-00334]; Kung Gustav V:s 80 year foundation [grant no FAI-2020-0666]; Karolinska Institutet foundations [grant no 2020-02508 and 2020-02398]. TF and SS were supported by the Swedish Research Council [DNR 2016-01355 and DNR 2018-02803, respectively]. JA was supported by the Swedish Research Council; Nordforsk; Vinnova; Region Stockholm/Karolinska Institutet Funds (ALF) and the Swedish Heart Lung Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

Other keywords

  • Familiality
  • Heritability
  • Methotrexate
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Treatment persistence
  • Humans
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid/drug therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Antirheumatic Agents/therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Methotrexate/therapeutic use


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