A network meta-regression using IPD is recommended as the “gold standard” method to adjust for treatment effect modifiers when IPD are available for all considered studies [29, 30]; this method was implemented here in accordance with relevant methodological guidelines [29].

Two series of analyses were performed, using two definitions of the treatment variable: treatment variable with three levels (CT-P13 SC, CT-P13 IV, reference infliximab IV) and treatment variable with two levels (CT-P13 SC, infliximab IV [pooled data for CT-P13 IV and reference infliximab IV]).

Multivariate mixed models, with normal distribution and identity link function for continuous outcomes and binomial distribution and logit link function for binary outcomes, were fitted at weeks 30 and 54. Dependent variables were the outcomes of interest, as listed above. Model covariates were selected among variables listed in Additional file 1, Table S1. The same 3-step approach as described for the imputation model above was used for the models for DAS28-CRP, CDAI and SDAI change from baseline, EULAR good response (CRP criteria), ACR20, ACR50, ACR70, Boolean remission and HAQ-DI MCID (≥ 0.22) at week 30. For binary outcomes based on DAS28-CRP, CDAI and SDAI, the same covariates as in the model for corresponding continuous outcomes were used. For outcomes at week 54, the same covariates as for the corresponding outcomes at week 30 were used. In addition, a variable representing study 3.1 or 3.5 was entered in all regression models as a random effect.

Analysis outputs included treatment differences with associated 95% CIs for continuous outcomes, and odd ratios (OR) with associated 95% CIs for binary outcomes.

The treatment effect at week 54, for each continuous outcome (DAS28-CRP, CDAI and SDAI), was obtained as the mean of treatment effects estimated from the 10 simulated datasets, and the associated variance coefficient was calculated as the sum of the variance of estimated treatment effect within simulations and variance between simulations [28, 31]. p-value and 95% CI calculations considered a normal distribution of finally obtained coefficients.

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