Several agents show an effect on reducing radiographic progression in rheumatoid arthritis. It is tempting to retrospectively compare the effects of these agents on radiographic progression across clinical trials. However, there are several limitations in interpreting and comparing radiographic results across clinical trials. These limitations, including study designs, patient characteristics, durations of follow-up, scoring methodologies, reader reliability, radiograph sequence, handling of missing data, and data presentation, will be discussed. The consequences are illustrated with several examples of recent clinical trials that show an effect on radiographic progression. A guide in the interpretation and clinical relevance of radiographic results is presented, with the Anti-TNF Trial in Rheumatoid Arthritis with Concomitant Therapy used as an example.
Keywords: radiography, infliximab, etanercept, leflunomide, methotrexate