Background: To analyse the subsequent clinical course of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who either continued or discontinued biologic agents after hospitalization for infections. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the clinical records of 230 RA patients with 307 hospitalizations for infections under biologic therapy between September 2008 and May 2014 in 15 institutions for up to 18 months after discharge. The risks of RA flares and subsequent hospitalizations for infections from 61 days to 18 months after discharge were evaluated. Results: Survival analyses indicated that patients who continued biologic therapy had a significantly lower risk of RA flares (31.4% vs. 60.6%, P < 0.01) and a slightly lower risk of subsequent infections (28.7% vs. 34.5%, P = 0.37). Multivariate analysis showed that discontinuation of biologic therapy, diabetes, and a history of hospitalization for infection under biologic therapy were associated with RA flares. Oral steroid therapy equivalent to prednisolone 5 mg/day or more and chronic renal dysfunction were independent risk factors for subsequent hospitalizations for infections. Conclusions: Discontinuation of biologic therapy after hospitalization for infections may result in RA flares. Continuation of biologic therapy is preferable, particularly in patients without immunodeficiency.
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