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1.  Utility of the new rheumatoid arthritis 2010 ACR/EULAR classification criteria in routine clinical care 
BMJ Open  2012;2(5):e001117.
The new 2010 American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism (ACR/EULAR) criteria for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have been designed to classify early onset RA, but has not been studied to identify RA in patients with arthritis seen in routine clinical care where correct ‘classification’ of patients, when they are not selected for having RA would be important.
Prospective, consecutive patients cohort.
Outpatient clinic of a university rheumatology centre.
A total of 126 patients with joint symptoms were consecutively recruited.
The ACR/EULAR RA criteria were applied, with questions followed by a targeted musculoskeletal exam. The gold standard for the diagnosis of RA was the primary rheumatologist's diagnosis.
Primary outcome measure
Number of patients with non-RA diagnosis who were classified as having RA by the new classification criteria.
The sensitivity and specificity of the 2010 criteria in classifying RA were 97% and 55%, respectively, compared with the 1987 RA criteria which were 93% and 76%, respectively. The 2010 criteria as applied to this group of patients had a poorer positive predictive (44% vs 61%) and a similar negative predictive value (98% vs 97%) compared with the 1987 criteria. More specifically, 66.7% of systemic lupus erythematosus patients, 50% of osteoarthritis, 37.5% of psoriatic arthritis and 27.2% of others fulfilled the new criteria and could have been classified as RA.
In this, we believe, the first study to examine the new 2010 ACR/EULAR RA criteria among consecutive patients seen in routine care, we found the criteria to have low specificity, and therefore incorrectly label those as having RA when, in fact, they may have a different type of inflammatory arthritis. Physicians need to be aware of this when applying the new criteria for classifying their patients for any purpose.
PMCID: PMC3488748  PMID: 23035013
Rheumatology; rheumatoid arthritis; diagnosis
2.  American College of Rheumatology/European League against Rheumatism Preliminary Definition of Remission in Rheumatoid Arthritis for Clinical Trials 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(3):573-586.
With remission in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) an increasingly attainable goal, there is no widely used definition of remission that is stringent but achievable and could be applied uniformly as an outcome in clinical trials.
A committee consisting of members of the American College of Rheumatology, the European League Against Rheumatism and the Outcome Measures in Rheumatology Initiative (OMERACT) met to guide the process and review prespecified analyses from clinical trials of patients with RA. The committee requested a stringent definition (little, if any, active disease) and decided to use core set measures to define remission including at least joint counts and an acute phase reactant. Members were surveyed to select the level of each core set measure consistent with remission. Candidate definitions of remission were tested including those that constituted a number of individual measures in remission (Boolean approach) as well as definitions using disease activity indexes. To select a definition of remission, trial data were analyzed to examine the added contribution of patient reported outcomes and the ability of candidate measures to predict later good x-ray and functional outcomes.
Survey results for the definition of remission pointed to indexes at published thresholds and to a count of core set measures with each measure scored as 1 or less (e.g. tender and swollen joint counts, CRP and global assessments on 0-10 scale). Analyses suggested the need to include a patient reported measure. Examination of 2 year follow-up data suggested that many candidate definitions performed comparably in terms of predicting later good x-ray and functional outcomes, although DAS28 based measures of remission did not predict good radiographic outcomes as well as did the other candidate definitions. Given these and other considerations, we propose that a patient be defined as in remission based on one of two definitions : 1: When their scores on the following measures are all <1: tender joint count, swollen joint count, CRP (in mg/dL) and patient global assessment (0-10 scale), OR 2: when their score on the SDAI is < 3.3.
We propose two new definitions of remission both of which can be uniformly applied and widely used in RA clinical trials. We recommend that one of these be selected in each trial as an outcome and that the results on both be reported in each trial.
PMCID: PMC3115717  PMID: 21294106
3.  A Candidate Gene Approach Identifies the TRAF1/C5 Region as a Risk Factor for Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(9):e278.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder affecting ∼1% of the population. The disease results from the interplay between an individual's genetic background and unknown environmental triggers. Although human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) account for ∼30% of the heritable risk, the identities of non-HLA genes explaining the remainder of the genetic component are largely unknown. Based on functional data in mice, we hypothesized that the immune-related genes complement component 5 (C5) and/or TNF receptor-associated factor 1 (TRAF1), located on Chromosome 9q33–34, would represent relevant candidate genes for RA. We therefore aimed to investigate whether this locus would play a role in RA.
Methods and Findings
We performed a multitiered case-control study using 40 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the TRAF1 and C5 (TRAF1/C5) region in a set of 290 RA patients and 254 unaffected participants (controls) of Dutch origin. Stepwise replication of significant SNPs was performed in three independent sample sets from the Netherlands (ncases/controls = 454/270), Sweden (ncases/controls = 1,500/1,000) and US (ncases/controls = 475/475). We observed a significant association (p < 0.05) of SNPs located in a haplotype block that encompasses a 65 kb region including the 3′ end of C5 as well as TRAF1. A sliding window analysis revealed an association peak at an intergenic region located ∼10 kb from both C5 and TRAF1. This peak, defined by SNP14/rs10818488, was confirmed in a total of 2,719 RA patients and 1,999 controls (odds ratiocommon = 1.28, 95% confidence interval 1.17–1.39, pcombined = 1.40 × 10−8) with a population-attributable risk of 6.1%. The A (minor susceptibility) allele of this SNP also significantly correlates with increased disease progression as determined by radiographic damage over time in RA patients (p = 0.008).
Using a candidate-gene approach we have identified a novel genetic risk factor for RA. Our findings indicate that a polymorphism in the TRAF1/C5 region increases the susceptibility to and severity of RA, possibly by influencing the structure, function, and/or expression levels of TRAF1 and/or C5.
Using a candidate-gene approach, Rene Toes and colleagues identified a novel genetic risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis in theTRAF1/C5 region.
Editors' Summary
Rheumatoid arthritis is a very common chronic illness that affects around 1% of people in developed countries. It is caused by an abnormal immune reaction to various tissues within the body; as well as affecting joints and causing an inflammatory arthritis, it can also affect many other organs of the body. Severe rheumatoid arthritis can be life-threatening, but even mild forms of the disease cause substantial illness and disability. Current treatments aim to give symptomatic relief with the use of simple analgesics, or anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, most patients are also treated with what are known as disease-modifying agents, which aim to prevent joint damage. Rheumatoid arthritis is known to have a genetic component. For example, an association has been shown with the part of the genome that contains the human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), which are involved in the immune response. Information on other genes involved would be helpful both for understanding the underlying cause of the disease and possibly for the discovery of new treatments.
Why Was This Study Done?
Previous work in mice that have a disease similar to human rheumatoid arthritis has identified a number of possible candidate genes. One of these genes, complement component 5 (C5) is involved in the complement system—a primitive system within the body that is involved in the defense against foreign molecules. In humans the gene for C5 is located on Chromosome 9 close to another gene involved in the inflammatory response, TNF receptor-associated factor 1 (TRAF1). A preliminary study in humans of this region had shown some evidence, albeit weak, to suggest that this region might be associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The authors set out to look in more detail, and in a larger group of individuals, to see if they could prove this association.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers took 40 genetic markers, known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), from across the region that included the C5 and TRAF1 genes. SNPs have each been assigned a unique reference number that specifies a point in the human genome, and each is present in alternate forms so can be differentiated. They compared which of the alternate forms were present in 290 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 254 unaffected participants of Dutch origin. They then repeated the study in three other groups of patients and controls of Dutch, Swedish, and US origin. They found a consistent association with rheumatoid arthritis of one region of 65 kilobases (a small distance in genetic terms) that included one end of the C5 gene as well as the TRAF1 gene. They could refine the area of interest to a piece marked by one particular SNP that lay between the genes. They went on to show that the genetic region in which these genes are located may be involved in the binding of a protein that modifies the transcription of genes, thus providing a possible explanation for the association. Furthermore, they showed that one of the alternate versions of the marker in this region was associated with more aggressive disease.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The finding of a genetic association is the first step in identifying a genetic component of a disease. The strength of this study is that a novel genetic susceptibility factor for RA has been identified and that the overall result is consistent in four different populations as well as being associated with disease severity. Further work will need to be done to confirm the association in other populations and then to identify the precise genetic change involved. Hopefully this work will lead to new avenues of investigation for therapy.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• Medline Plus, the health information site for patients from the US National Library of Medicine, has a page of resources on rheumatoid arthritis
• The UK's National Health Service online information site has information on rheumatoid arthritis
• The Arthritis Research Campaign, a UK charity that funds research on all types of arthritis, has a booklet with information for patients on rheumatoid arthritis
• Reumafonds, a Dutch arthritis foundation, gives information on rheumatoid arthritis (in Dutch)
• Autocure is an initiative whose objective is to transform knowledge obtained from molecular research into a cure for an increasing number of patients suffering from inflammatory rheumatic diseases
• The European league against Rheumatism, an organisation which represents the patient, health professionals, and scientific societies of rheumatology of all European nations
PMCID: PMC1976626  PMID: 17880261
4.  The incidence of rheumatoid arthritis in the UK: comparisons using the 2010 ACR/EULAR classification criteria and the 1987 ACR classification criteria. Results from the Norfolk Arthritis Register 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;72(8):1315-1320.
The development of new classification criteria for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) calls for a re-estimation of RA incidence rates. The objectives of this study were to estimate the age and sex-specific incidence rates (IR) of RA in Norfolk, England using the 2010 American College of Rheumatology (ACR)/European League Against Rheumatism criteria, and to compare those with IRs estimated using the 1987 ACR criteria.
The Norfolk Arthritis Register (NOAR), a large primary care inception cohort of patients with inflammatory oligo- and polyarthritis (IP) aged ≥ 16.
All patients notified to NOAR from 1990-5 with symptom onset in 1990 were included. The former Norwich Health Authority population was the denominator. Age and sex specific IRs using 1987 and 2010 classification criteria were calculated at baseline visit, annually for the first 3 years and at 5 years.
260 patients were notified to NOAR with symptom onset in 1990 and without an alternative diagnosis. IRs applying the 2010 criteria at baseline were 54/100 000 for women and 25/100 000 for men. Age and sex-specific IRs using the 2010 classification criteria at baseline were similar to cumulative IRs applying the 1987 criteria up to 5 years. However, some patients only ever satisfied one set of criteria and a proportion of IA patients (20%) did not satisfy either criteria set over 5 years.
The 2010 criteria classify similar numbers of patients as having RA at baseline, as the 1987 criteria would have taken up to 5 years to identify.
PMCID: PMC3711368  PMID: 22945499
Early Rheumatoid Arthritis; Rheumatoid Arthritis; Epidemiology
5.  Selective involvement of ERK and JNK mitogen-activated protein kinases in early rheumatoid arthritis (1987 ACR criteria compared to 2010 ACR/EULAR criteria): a prospective study aimed at identification of diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers as well as therapeutic targets 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(3):415-423.
To investigate the expression and activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases in patients with early arthritis who are disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) naïve.
A total of 50 patients with early arthritis who were DMARD naïve (disease duration <1 year) were prospectively followed and diagnosed at baseline and after 2 years for undifferentiated arthritis (UA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (1987 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and 2010 ACR/European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) criteria), or spondyloarthritis (SpA). Synovial biopsies obtained at baseline were examined for expression and phosphorylation of p38, extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) by immunohistochemistry and digital analysis. Synovial tissue mRNA expression was measured by quantitative PCR (qPCR).
ERK and JNK activation was enhanced at inclusion in patients meeting RA criteria compared to other diagnoses. JNK activation was enhanced in patients diagnosed as having UA at baseline who eventually fulfilled 1987 ACR RA criteria compared to those who remained UA, and in patients with RA fulfilling 2010 ACR/EULAR criteria at baseline. ERK and JNK activation was enhanced in patients with RA developing progressive joint destruction. JNK activation in UA predicted 1987 ACR RA classification criteria fulfilment (R2=0.59, p=0.02) after follow-up, and disease progression in early arthritis (R2=0.16, p<0.05). Enhanced JNK activation in patients with persistent disease was associated with altered synovial expression of extracellular matrix components and CD44.
JNK activation is elevated in RA before 1987 ACR RA classification criteria are met and predicts development of erosive disease in early arthritis, suggesting JNK may represent an attractive target in treating RA early in the disease process.
PMCID: PMC3277721  PMID: 21953337
6.  Performance of response criteria for assessing peripheral arthritis in patients with psoriatic arthritis: analysis of data from randomised controlled trials of two tumour necrosis factor inhibitors 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2006;65(10):1373-1378.
In recent clinical trials in patients with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), the response criteria and disease activity measures that have been used were those developed for rheumatoid arthritis. However, these have not yet been validated in PsA.
To compare the responsiveness and discriminative capacity of the psoriatic arthritis response criteria (PsARC), American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) response criteria and the Disease Activity Score (DAS) and core‐set measures in patients with PsA and peripheral arthritis, using the data from two randomised placebo‐controlled trials of tumour necrosis factor inhibitors.
In an infliximab trial, 104 patients with active PsA were randomised to receive placebo or infliximab for 16 weeks. In an etanercept trial, 60 patients with active PsA were randomised to receive placebo or etanercept for 12 weeks. Data from baseline and the end of the intervention phase were used from each study. Responsiveness was assessed using the standardised response mean and effect size. Capacity to discriminate between the active drug and placebo was assessed using t values or a χ2 test. Measures were ranked in order of their t value or χ2 value.
The EULAR criteria performed better in discriminating the active drug from placebo than the ACR20 improvement criteria, which in turn performed better than the PsARC. It was also found that the pooled indices (DAS and DAS28) were generally more responsive, and performed better in discriminating active drug from placebo, than the single core‐set measures.
Response criteria and pooled indices developed for rheumatoid arthritis are useful for the assessment of arthritis in PsA clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC1798317  PMID: 16644783
7.  Performance of the 2010 Classification Criteria for Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Literature Review and a Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56528.
To evaluate the performance of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR)/European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) 2010 classification criteria for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with a systematic literature review and a meta-analysis.
PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library and the abstracts of the ACR and EULAR meetings (2010–2012) were searched for original articles or abstracts with the following inclusion criteria: 1) recent onset arthritis, with at least one swollen joint and no alternative diagnosis; 2) the ACR/EULAR 2010 criteria as index test; 3) the prescription of methotrexate (MTX) or disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) at any time during follow-up as reference standard. Data were pooled using the bivariate model. Three meta-analyses were performed with MTX (primary analysis), DMARDs or their combination (secondary analyses) as reference standard. Heterogeneity was formally tested and explored performing an influence analysis.
The search identified 1,277 references. Six full papers and 4 abstracts met the inclusion criteria. With MTX as reference standard, sensitivity (95% confidence interval, CI) was 0.80 (0.74,0.85), specificity 0.61 (0.56,0.67), positive likelihood ratio (LR) 2.11 (1.92,2.32), negative LR 0.31 (0.25,0.38) and the diagnostic odds ratio (DOR) was 6.74 (5.49,8.28). Using DMARDs as reference standard, sensitivity was 0.73 (0.64,0.80), specificity was 0.74 (0.68,0.79), LR+2.85 (2.53,3.22), LR− 0.35 (0.27,0.45) and DOR 8.03 (6.4,10.09). Using the combination of MTX and DMARDs as reference standard, intermediate results were obtained. The influence analysis detected one potentially influential study. However, its exclusion from the meta-analysis did not have a clinically relevant impact on the results.
The new classification criteria have good sensitivity, lower specificity and an overall moderate diagnostic accuracy. These results confirm that the criteria have classificative and not diagnostic function.
PMCID: PMC3577909  PMID: 23437156
8.  Rheumatic Diseases in China 
Epidemiological studies of rheumatic diseases have been conducted during the past 20 years in China. The aim of this study was to clarify prevalence rates of common rheumatic diseases in China.
Relevant reports of population-based surveys conducted from 1980 to 2006 were retrieved. Studies using the World Health Organization-International League of Associations for Rheumatology COPCORD (Community Oriented Program for Control of Rheumatic Diseases) protocol and those that did not employ this protocol but were published in recognized journals were identified and analyzed.
Thirty-eight surveys including 241,169 adults from 25 provinces/cities were pooled for analysis. The prevalence of rheumatic complaints ranged from 11.6% to 46.4%, varying by locality, study protocol and age of the people surveyed. Prevalence of symptomatic osteoarthritis (OA) varied from 5.1% to 20.8%, with common sites of involvement being the lumbar spine, knee joint and cervical spine. Compared with rates of radiographic and symptomatic knee OA in the USA, elderly men in Beijing exhibited similar prevalence rates and elderly women exhibited a higher prevalence. The prevalence of hip OA and hand OA was much lower in Chinese than in Caucasian populations, but both kinds of OA were more common in coal miners. The prevalence of ankylosing spondylitis ranged from 0.2% to 0.54% among Han ethnic Chinese and were lower among mixed ethnic populations. The prevalence of psoriatic arthritis ranged from 0.01% to 0.1%, and that of reactive arthritis was 0.02%; undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy was identified in 0.64% to 1.2% of the individuals included in the surveys. The prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) ranged from 0.2% to 0.93%, with the highest rate being reported from a Taiwan urban area. In mainland China there were no significant differences in prevalence of RA between the northern and southern parts of China, or between different ethnic groups. The prevalence of hyperuricemia increased after the 1980s. The prevalence of gout was found to have increased in recent decades from 0.15% to 1.98%, apart from in the Taiwan aborigines, among whom the highest prevalence rate of 11.7% was recorded. The prevalence of primary Sjögren's syndrome in Beijing was 0.77% by the Copenhagen criteria and 0.33% by the San Diego criteria. The prevalence of soft tissue rheumatism was 2.5% to 5.7%. Fibromyalgia was seldom observed in China.
Rheumatic diseases are common in China. The prevalence of rheumatic complaints varied with the locality surveyed. The prevalence of OA is comparable with that in Western countries but varies in terms of joint involvement. The prevalence of ankylosing spondylitis is similar to that in Caucasians. Except in Taiwan, the prevalence of RA in China is lower than that in developed countries. The prevalence of hyperuricemia and gout increased after the 1980s, but it remains lower than that in developed countries. More studies are required to evaluate prevalence rates among minority groups in the west and northwest parts of China, and further study is needed to address fibromyalgia in China.
PMCID: PMC2374446  PMID: 18237382
9.  Utility of ultrasound joint counts in the prediction of rheumatoid arthritis in patients with very early synovitis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;70(3):500-507.
Early therapy improves outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It is therefore important to improve predictive algorithms for RA in early disease. This study evaluated musculoskeletal ultrasound, a sensitive tool for the detection of synovitis and erosions, as a predictor of outcome in very early synovitis.
58 patients with clinically apparent synovitis of at least one joint and symptom duration of ≤3 months underwent clinical, laboratory, radiographic and 38 joint ultrasound assessments and were followed prospectively for 18 months, determining outcome by 1987 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and 2010 ACR/European League Against Rheumatism criteria. Sensitivity and specificity for 1987 RA criteria were determined for ultrasound variables and logistic regression models were then fitted to evaluate predictive ability over and above the Leiden rule.
16 patients resolved, 13 developed non-RA persistent disease and 29 developed RA by 1987 criteria. Ultrasound demonstrated subclinical wrist, elbow, knee, ankle and metatarsophalangeal joint involvement in patients developing RA. Large joint and proximal interphalangeal joint ultrasound variables had poor predictive ability, whereas ultrasound erosions lacked specificity. Regression analysis demonstrated that greyscale wrist and metacarpophalangeal joint involvement, and power Doppler involvement of metatarsophalangeal joints provided independently predictive data. Global ultrasound counts were inferior to minimal power Doppler counts, which significantly improved area under the curve values from 0.905 to 0.962 combined with the Leiden rule.
In a longitudinal study, extended ultrasound joint evaluation significantly increased detection of joint involvement in all regions and outcome groups. Greyscale and power Doppler scanning of metacarpophalangeal joints, wrists and metatarsophalangeal joints provides the optimum minimal ultrasound data to improve on clinical predictive models for RA.
PMCID: PMC3033529  PMID: 21115552
10.  Multinational evidence-based recommendations for the use of methotrexate in rheumatic disorders with a focus on rheumatoid arthritis: integrating systematic literature research and expert opinion of a broad international panel of rheumatologists in the 3E Initiative 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2008;68(7):1086-1093.
To develop evidence-based recommendations for the use of methotrexate in daily clinical practice in rheumatic disorders.
751 rheumatologists from 17 countries participated in the 3E (Evidence, Expertise, Exchange) Initiative of 2007–8 consisting of three separate rounds of discussions and Delphi votes. Ten clinical questions concerning the use of methotrexate in rheumatic disorders were formulated. A systematic literature search in Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library and 2005–7 American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism meeting abstracts was conducted. Selected articles were systematically reviewed and the evidence was appraised according to the Oxford levels of evidence. Each country elaborated a set of national recommendations. Finally, multinational recommendations were formulated and agreement among the participants and the potential impact on their clinical practice was assessed.
A total of 16 979 references was identified, of which 304 articles were included in the systematic reviews. Ten multinational key recommendations on the use of methotrexate were formulated. Nine recommendations were specific for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), including the work-up before initiating methotrexate, optimal dosage and route, use of folic acid, monitoring, management of hepatotoxicity, long-term safety, mono versus combination therapy and management in the perioperative period and before/during pregnancy. One recommendation concerned methotrexate as a steroid-sparing agent in other rheumatic diseases.
Ten recommendations for the use of methotrexate in daily clinical practice focussed on RA were developed, which are evidence based and supported by a large panel of rheumatologists, enhancing their validity and practical use.
PMCID: PMC2689523  PMID: 19033291
11.  Influence of tumor necrosis factor α in rheumatoid arthritis  
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most prevalent inflammatory rheumatic disorder. It is a chronic and incurable disease that leads to painful inflammation, often irreversible joint damage, and eventually to functional loss.
Conventional treatment is based on unspecific immunosuppressive agents, e.g. Methotrexate, Azathioprin or Gold. However, the longterm outcomes of these approaches have been poor with frequently ongoing inflammatory disease activity, functional decline, and temporary or permanent work disability. More recently, antagonists of the human cytokine Tumor Necrosis Factor α (TNF-α) have been introduced that are potent suppressors of inflammatory processes. Infliximab is a chimeric antibody against TNF-α. Etanercept is a soluble human TNF-α receptor.
The report assesses the efficacy of TNF-α-antagonists to down-regulate inflammation, improve functional status and prevent joint damage in RA with particular regard to the following indications: Treatment of severe, refractory and ongoing disease activity despite adequate use of conventional antirheumatic agents; and treatment of early RA before conventional treatment failure has been demonstrated.
A systematic review of the literature is been performed using established electronic databases. The literature search is supplemented by a hand search of journals and publications relevant to RA, reviews of websites of national and international rheumatologic expert societies, as well as contacts to manufacturers. A priori defined inclusion and exclusion criteria are used for literature selection. Analysis and evaluation of included publications are based on standardised criteria sets and checklists of the German Scientific Working Group for Technology Assessment in Health Care.
Health Technology Assessment reports and metaanalyses cannot be identified. A total of 12 clinical trials are analysed, as well as national and international expert recommendations and practice guidelines. Numerous non-systematic reviews are found and analysed for additional sources of information that is not identified through the systematic search. Case reports and safety assessements are considered as well. A total of 137 publications is included.
The primary outcome measures in clinical trials are suppression of inflammatory disease activity and slowing of structural joint damage. Clinical response is usually measured by standardised response criteria that allow a semi-quantitative classification of improvement from baseline by 20%, 50%, or 70%.
In patients with RA refractory to conventional treatment, TNF-α-antagonists are unequivocally superior to Methotrexate with regard to disease activity, functional status and prevention of structural damage. In patients with early RA, TNF-α-antagonists show a more rapid onset of anti-inflammatory effects than Methotrexate. However, differences in clinical response rates and radiologic progression disappear after a few months of treatment and are no longer statistically significant. Serious adverse events are rare in clinical trials and do not occur significantly more often than in the control groups. However, case reports and surveillance registries show an increased risk for serious infectious complications, particularly tuberculosis. Expert panels recommend the use of TNF-α-antagonists in patients with active refractory RA after failure of conventional treatment. Studies that compare Infliximab and Etanercept are lacking.
There are no pharmacoeconomic studies although decision analytic models of TNF-α-antagonists for the treatment of RA exist. Based on the results of the models, a combination therapy with Hydroxychloroquin (HCQ), Sulfaslazin (SASP) and Methotrexate as well as Etanercept/Methotrexate can be considered a cost-effective treatment for Methotrexate-resistant RA.
TNF-α-antagonists are clearly effective in RA patients with no or incomplete response to Methotrexate and superior to continuous use of Methotrexate. It refers to both, reduction of inflammatory disease activity including pain relief and improved functional status, and prevention of structural joint damage. Therefore, TNF-α-antagonism is an important new approach in the treatment of RA. There is still insufficient evidence that early use of TNF-α-antagonists in RA prior to standard agents is beneficial and further studies have to be awaited.
An analytic model suggests that TNF-α-antagonists are, due to their clinical effectiveness in patients with no or incomplete response to Methotrexate, a cost-effective alternative to common therapies chosen in the subpopulations of patients. Nevertheless, it has to be borne in mind that the acquisition costs of TNF-α-antagonists lead to high incremental costs and C/E ratios, which exceed the common frame of assessing the cost-effectiveness of medical methods and technologies. Hence, society's willingness-to-pay is the critical determinant in the question whether TNF-α-antagonists shall be reimbursed or not, or to define criteria for reimbursement. Changes in the quality of life attributable to the use of TNF-α-antagonists in RA have not yet been assessed which might assist the decision making.
With respect of the questions mentioned above and the potential financial effect of a systematic use of TNF-α-antagonists in the treatment of RA, we come to the conclusion that TNF-α-antagonists should not introduced as a standard benefit reimbursed by the statutory health insurers in Germany.
PMCID: PMC3011313  PMID: 21289933
health economics; tumor necrosis factor; TNF-alpha; treatment; rheumatoid arthritis; cost-effectiveness
12.  Level of agreement between 2002 American–European Consensus Group and 2012 American College of Rheumatology classification criteria for Sjögren’s syndrome and reasons for discrepancies 
The aims of this study were to assess agreement between the currently used 2002 American–European Consensus Group (AECG) classification criteria and the new 2012 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria for Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) and to identify potential sources of disagreement.
We studied 105 patients between 2006 and 2013 from the Brittany cohort of patients with suspected SS. AECG criteria were applied using only Schimer’s test and unstimulated whole salivary flow (UWSF) to assess objective ocular and oral involvement, since these are the tests most physicians use in clinical practice. Agreement between the two sets of criteria was assessed using Cohen’s κ coefficient.
Of those studied, 42 patients fulfilled AECG and 35 ACR criteria. Agreement between the two sets was moderate (κ = 0.53). Patients fulfilling ACR but not AECG criteria (n = 8) were significantly younger and had shorter symptom durations, but only three of them had SS in the opinion of the evaluating physician. Xerostomia and xerophthalmia (AECG set only) did not discriminate between patients with and without SS. The use of UWSF in the AECG but not the ACR criteria explained part of the disagreement. The serological item in the ACR set (positive rheumatoid factor and antinuclear antibody ≥1:320 or anti-SSA/SSB positivity) did not result in classification differences compared to anti-SSA/SSB antibody alone (AECG set). Agreement between ocular staining score ≥3 (ACR set) and Schirmer’s test ≤5 mm/5 min (AECG set) was very low (κ = 0.14).
Agreement was only moderate between ACR and AECG criteria, suggesting these two sets would not select comparable patient populations. An international consensus about which classification criteria should be used in clinical studies is needed.
PMCID: PMC4060239  PMID: 24642022
13.  The ACR20 and defining a threshold for response in rheumatic diseases: too much of a good thing 
In the past 20 years great progress has been made in the development of multidimensional outcome measures (such as the Disease Activity Score and ACR20) to evaluate treatments in rheumatoid arthritis, a process disseminated throughout rheumatic diseases. These outcome measures have standardized the assessment of outcomes in trials, making it possible to evaluate and compare the efficacy of treatments. The methodologic advances have included the selection of pre-existing outcome measures that detected change in a sensitive fashion (in rheumatoid arthritis, this was the Core Set Measures). These measures were then combined into a single multidimensional outcome measure and such outcome measures have been widely adopted in trials and endorsed by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and regulatory agencies. The secular improvement in treatment for patients with rheumatoid arthritis has been facilitated in part by these major methodologic advancements. The one element of this effort that has not optimized measurement of outcomes nor made it easier to detect the effect of treatments is the dichotomization of continuous measures of response, creating responders and non-responder definitions (for example, ACR20 responders; EULAR good responders). Dichotomizing response sacrifices statistical power and eliminates variability in response. Future methodologic work will need to focus on improving multidimensional outcome measurement without arbitrarily characterizing some patients as responders while labeling others as non-responders.
PMCID: PMC3978644  PMID: 24387346
14.  IFN-γ production in response to in vitro stimulation with collagen type II in rheumatoid arthritis is associated with HLA-DRB1*0401 and HLA-DQ8 
Arthritis Research  1999;2(1):75-84.
IFN-γ was measured in supernatants after in vitro stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with collagen type II (CII), purified protein derivative or influenza virus. IFN-γ production in response to CII was similar in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and healthy control individuals. The IFN-γ response to purified protein derivative and influenza virus was lower in RA patients, reflecting a general T-cell hyporesponsiveness in RA. After recalculating the response to CII taking this hyporesponsiveness into account the CII response was higher in RA patients, and was associated with human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-DRB1*0401 and HLA-DQA1*0301-DQB1*0302 (HLA-DQ8). Rheumatoid arthritis patients with elevated serum levels of immunoglobulin (Ig)G anti-CII antibodies had lower CII-induced IFN-γ production than patients with low anti-CII levels. The relative increase in CII-reactivity in RA patients as compared with healthy control individuals, and the association of a higher response with RA-associated HLA haplotypes, suggest the existence of a potentially pathogenic cellular reactivity against CII in RA.
Despite much work over past decades, whether antigen-specific immune reactions occur in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to what extent such reactions are directed towards joint-specific autoantigens is still questionable. One strong indicator for antigenic involvement in RA is the fact that certain major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II genotypes [human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-DR4 and HLA-DR1] predispose for the development of the disease [1]. In the present report, collagen type II (CII) was studied as a putative autoantigen on the basis of both clinical and experimental data that show an increased frequency of antibodies to CII in RA patients [2,3,4] and that show that CII can induce experimental arthritis [5].
It is evident from the literature that RA peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) respond poorly to antigenic stimulation [6,7,8], and in particular evidence for a partial tolerization to CII has been presented [9]. The strategy of the present work has accordingly been to reinvestigate T-cell reactivity to CII in RA patients, to relate it to the response to commonly used recall antigens and to analyze IFN-γ responses as an alternative to proliferative responses.
To study cellular immune reactivity to CII in patients with RA and in healthy control individuals and to correlate this reactivity to HLA class II genotypes and to the presence of antibodies to CII in serum.
Forty-five patients who met the 1987 American College of Rheumatology classification criteria for RA [10] and 25 healthy control individuals of similar age and sex were included. Twenty-six of these patients who had low levels of anti-CII in serum were randomly chosen, whereas 19 patients with high anti-CII levels were identified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)-screening of 400 RA sera.
Heparinized blood was density gradient separated and PBMCs were cultured at 1 × 106/ml in RPMI-10% fetal calf serum with or without antigenic stimulation: native or denatured CII (100 μ g/ml), killed influenza virus (Vaxigrip, Pasteur Mérieux, Lyon, France; diluted 1 : 1000) or purified protein derivative (PPD; 10 μ g/ml). CII was heat-denatured in 56°C for 30 min.
Cell supernatants were collected after 7days and IFN-γ contents were analyzed using ELISA. HLA-DR and HLA-DQ genotyping was performed utilizing a polymerase chain reaction-based technique with sequence-specific oligonucleotide probe hybridization. Nonparametric statistical analyses were utilized throughout the study.
PBMCs from both RA patients and healthy control individuals responded with inteferon-γ production to the same degree to stimulation with native and denatured CII (Fig. 1a), giving median stimulation indexes with native CII of 4.6 for RA patients and 5.4 for healthy control individuals, and with denatured CII of 2.9 for RA patients and 2.6 for healthy control individuals. RA patients with elevated levels of anti-CII had a weaker IFN-γ response to both native and denatured CII than did healthy control individuals (P = 0.02 and 0.04, respectively).
Stimulation with the standard recall antigens PPD and killed influenza virus yielded a median stimulation index with PPD of 10.0 for RA patients and 51.3 for healthy control individuals and with influenza of 12.3 for RA patients and 25.7 for healthy, control individuals. The RA patients displayed markedly lower responsiveness to both PPD and killed influenza virus than did healthy control individuals (Fig. 1b). IFN-γ responses to all antigens were abrogated when coincubating with antibodies blocking MHC class II.
The low response to PPD and killed influenza virus in RA patients relative to that of healthy control individuals reflects a general downregulation of antigen-induced responsiveness of T cells from RA patients [6,7,8]. That no difference between the RA group and the control group was recorded in CII-induced IFN-γ production therefore indicates that there may be an underlying increased responsiveness to CII in RA patients, which is obscured by the general downregulation of T-cell responsiveness in these patients. In order to address this possibility, we calculated the fraction between individual values for the CII-induced IFN-γ production and the PPD-induced and killed influenza virus-induced IFN-γ production, and compared these fractions. A highly significant difference between the RA and healthy control groups was apparent after stimulation with both native CII and denatured CII when expressing the response as a fraction of that with PPD (Fig. 2a). Similar data were obtained using killed influenza virus-stimulated IFN-γ values as the denominator (Fig. 2b).
When comparing the compensated IFN-γ response to denatured CII stimulation between RA patients with different HLA genotypes, highly significant differences were evident, with HLA-DRB1*0401 patients having greater CII responsiveness than patients who lacked this genotype (Fig. 3a). HLA-DQ8 positive patients also displayed a high responsiveness to CII as compared with HLA-DQ8 negative RA patients (Fig. 3b). These associations between the relative T-cell reactivity to denatured CII and HLA class II genotypes were not seen in healthy control individuals. Similar results were achieved using influenza as denominator (P = 0.02 for HLA-DRB1*0401 and P = 0.01 for HLA-DQ8).
No reports have previously systematically taken the general T-cell hyporesponsiveness in RA into account when investigating specific T-cell responses in this disease. In order to address this issue we used the T-cell responses to PPD and killed influenza virus as reference antigens. This was made on the assumption that exposure to these antigens is similar in age-matched and sex-matched groups of RA patients and healthy control individuals. The concept of a general hyporesponsiveness in RA T cells has been documented in several previous reports, in which both nominal antigens [6,7,8] and mitogens [11,12,13] have been used. The fact that a similar functional downregulation in RA PBMCs was obtained with both PPD and killed influenza virus as reference antigens strengthens the validity of our approach.
We identified an association between the IFN-γ response to CII and HLA-DRB1*0401 and HLA-DQ8 in the RA patient group, which is of obvious interest because both these MHC class II alleles have been associated with high responsiveness to CII in transgenic mice that express these human MHC class II molecules [14,15]. There was no association between high anti-CII levels and shared epitope (HLA-DRB1*0401 or HLA-DRB1*0404).
CII, a major autoantigen candidate in RA, can elicit an IFN-γ response in vitro that is associated with HLA-DRB1*0401 and HLA-DQ8 in RA patients. This study, with a partly new methodological approach to a classical problem in RA, has provided some additional support to the notion that CII may be a target autoantigen of importance for a substantial group of RA patients. Continued efforts to identify mechanisms behind the general hyporesponsiveness to antigens in RA, as well as the mechanisms behind the potential partial anergy to CII, may provide us with better opportunities to study the specificity and pathophysiological relevance of anti-CII reactivity in RA.
PMCID: PMC17806  PMID: 11219392
collagen type II; human leucocyte antigen-DR; IFN-γ; rheumatoid arthritis; T cell
15.  Matrix to predict rapid radiographic progression of early rheumatoid arthritis patients from the community treated with methotrexate or leflunomide: results from the ESPOIR cohort 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(6):R249.
Early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients may show rapid radiographic progression (RRP) despite rapid initiation of synthetic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The present study aimed to develop a matrix to predict risk of RRP despite early DMARD initiation in real life settings.
The ESPOIR cohort included 813 patients from the community with early arthritis for < 6 months; 370 patients had early RA and had received methotrexate or leflunomide during the first year of follow-up. RRP was defined as an increase in the van der Heijde-modified Sharp score (vSHS) ≥ 5 points at 1 year. Determinants of RRP were examined first by bivariate analysis, then multivariate stepwise logistic regression analysis. A visual matrix model was then developed to predict RRP in terms of patient baseline characteristics.
We analyzed data for 370 patients. The mean Disease Activity Score in 28 joints was 5.4 ± 1.2, 18.1% of patients had typical RA erosion on radiographs and 86.4% satisfied the 2010 criteria of the American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism. During the first year, mean change in vSHS was 1.6 ± 5.5, and 41 patients (11.1%) showed RRP. A multivariate logistic regression model enabled the development of a matrix predicting RRP in terms of baseline swollen joint count, C-reactive protein level, anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies status, and erosions seen on radiography for patients with early RA who received DMARDs.
The ESPOIR matrix may be a useful clinical practice tool to identify patients with early RA at high risk of RRP despite early DMARD initiation.
PMCID: PMC3674616  PMID: 23164197
16.  Persistence with Statins and Onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Population-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(9):e1000336.
In a retrospective cohort study, Gabriel Chodick and colleagues find a significant association between persistence with statin therapy and reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, but only a modest decrease in risk of osteoarthritis.
The beneficial effects of statins in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have been suggested previously, but it is unclear whether statins may prevent its development. The aim of this retrospective cohort study was to explore whether persistent use of statins is associated with onset of RA.
Methods and Findings
The computerized medical databases of a large health organization in Israel were used to identify diagnosed RA cases among adults who began statin therapy between 1998 and 2007. Persistence with statins was assessed by calculating the mean proportion of follow-up days covered (PDC) with statins for every study participant. To assess the possible effects of healthy user bias, we also examined the risk of osteoarthritis (OA), a common degenerative joint disease that is unlikely to be affected by use of statins.
A total of 211,627 and 193,770 individuals were eligible for the RA and OA cohort analyses, respectively. During the study follow-up period, there were 2,578 incident RA cases (3.07 per 1,000 person-years) and 17,878 incident OA cases (24.34 per 1,000 person-years). The crude incidence density rate of RA among nonpersistent patients (PDC level of <20%) was 51% higher (3.89 per 1,000 person-years) compared to highly persistent patients who were covered with statins for at least 80% of the follow-up period. After adjustment for potential confounders, highly persistent patients had a hazard ratio of 0.58 (95% confidence interval 0.52–0.65) for RA compared with nonpersistent patients. Larger differences were observed in younger patients and in patients initiating treatment with high efficacy statins. In the OA cohort analysis, high persistence with statins was associated only with a modest decrement in risk ratio (hazard ratio = 0.85; 0.81–0.88) compared to nonadherent patients.
The present study demonstrates an association between persistence with statin therapy and reduced risk of developing RA. The relationship between continuation of statin use and OA onset was weak and limited to patients with short-term follow-up.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The role of statins in the management of diseases that have an inflammatory component is unclear. There is some evidence that statins may have anti-inflammatory and immunumodulatory properties, demonstrated by reducing the level of C-reactive protein that may play an important role in chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis—a chronic condition that is a major cause of disability. Some small studies have suggested a modest effect of statins in decreasing disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, but a recent larger study involving over 30,000 patients with rheumatoid arthritis showed no beneficial effect. Furthermore, it has been suggested that statins may have a role in the primary prevention of rheumatoid arthritis, but so far there has been no solid evidence base to support this hypothesis. Before statins can potentially be included in the treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis, or possibly prescribed for the prevention of this condition, there needs to be a much stronger evidence base, such as larger studies with longer follow-up periods, which clearly demonstrates any significant clinical benefits of statin use.
Why Was This Study Done?
This large study (more than 200,000 patients) with a long follow-up period (average of 10 years) was conducted to discover whether there was any kind of association between persistent use of statins and the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study among the members of Maccabi Healthcare Services (a health maintenance organization [HMO]) in Israel, which has 1.8-million enrollees and covers every section of the Israeli population, to identify statin users who were at least 18 years of age and did not have RA or a related disease at study entry. The cohort covered the period 1998–2007 and included members who were continuously enrolled in the HMO from 1995 to 1998. The researchers then analyzed the incidence of newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis, recording the date of first diagnostic codes (International Classification of Diseases, 9th revision [ICD-9]) associated with rheumatoid arthritis during the study follow-up period. To assess any potential effects of “healthy adherer” bias (good adherence to medication in patients with a chronic illness may be more likely to lead to better health and improved survival), the researchers also examined any possible association between persistent statin use and the development of osteoarthritis, a common degenerative joint disease that is unlikely to be affected by statin use.
During the study follow-up period, there were 2,578 incident cases of rheumatoid arthritis and 17,878 incident cases of osteoarthritis. The crude incidence density rate of rheumatoid arthritis among patients who did not persistently take statins was 51% higher than that of patients who used statins for at least 80% of the follow-up period. Furthermore, patients who persistently used statins had a risk ratio of 0.58 for rheumatoid arthritis compared with patients who did not persistently use statins. In the osteoarthritis cohort analysis, high persistence with statin use was associated with a modest decrement in risk ratio (0.85) compared to patients who did not persist with statins.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study suggests that there is an association between persistence with statin therapy and reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Although the researchers took into account the possibility of healthy adherer bias (by comparing results with the osteoarthritis cohort), this study has other limitations, such as the retrospective design, and the nonrandomization of statin use, which could affect the interpretation of the results. However, the observed associations were greater than those that would be expected from methodological biases alone. Larger, systematic, controlled, prospective studies with high efficacy statins, particularly in younger adults who are at increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis, are needed to confirm these findings and to clarify the exact nature of the biological relationship between adherence to statin therapy and the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Arthritis Research UK provides a wide range of information on arthritis research
The American College of Rheumatology provides information on rheumatology research
Patient information on rheumatoid arthritis is available at Patient UK
Extensive information about statins is available at statin answers
PMCID: PMC2935457  PMID: 20838658
17.  Prolonged Grief Disorder: Psychometric Validation of Criteria Proposed for DSM-V and ICD-11 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(8):e1000121.
Holly Prigerson and colleagues tested the psychometric validity of criteria for prolonged grief disorder (PGD) to enhance the detection and care of bereaved individuals at heightened risk of persistent distress and dysfunction.
Bereavement is a universal experience, and its association with excess morbidity and mortality is well established. Nevertheless, grief becomes a serious health concern for a relative few. For such individuals, intense grief persists, is distressing and disabling, and may meet criteria as a distinct mental disorder. At present, grief is not recognized as a mental disorder in the DSM-IV or ICD-10. The goal of this study was to determine the psychometric validity of criteria for prolonged grief disorder (PGD) to enhance the detection and potential treatment of bereaved individuals at heightened risk of persistent distress and dysfunction.
Methods and Findings
A total of 291 bereaved respondents were interviewed three times, grouped as 0–6, 6–12, and 12–24 mo post-loss. Item response theory (IRT) analyses derived the most informative, unbiased PGD symptoms. Combinatoric analyses identified the most sensitive and specific PGD algorithm that was then tested to evaluate its psychometric validity. Criteria require reactions to a significant loss that involve the experience of yearning (e.g., physical or emotional suffering as a result of the desired, but unfulfilled, reunion with the deceased) and at least five of the following nine symptoms experienced at least daily or to a disabling degree: feeling emotionally numb, stunned, or that life is meaningless; experiencing mistrust; bitterness over the loss; difficulty accepting the loss; identity confusion; avoidance of the reality of the loss; or difficulty moving on with life. Symptoms must be present at sufficiently high levels at least six mo from the death and be associated with functional impairment.
The criteria set for PGD appear able to identify bereaved persons at heightened risk for enduring distress and dysfunction. The results support the psychometric validity of the criteria for PGD that we propose for inclusion in DSM-V and ICD-11.
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Virtually everyone loses someone they love during their lifetime. Grief is an unavoidable and normal reaction to this loss. After the death of a loved one, bereaved people may feel sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, and despair. They may think constantly about the deceased person and about the events that led up to the person's death. They often have physical reactions to their loss—problems sleeping, for example—and they may become ill. Socially, they may find it difficult to return to work or to see friends and family. For most people, these painful emotions and thoughts gradually diminish, usually within 6 months or so of the death. But for a few people, the normal grief reaction lingers and becomes increasingly debilitating. Experts call this complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder (PGD). Characteristically, people with PGD have intrusive thoughts and images of the deceased person and a painful yearning for his or her presence. They may also deny their loss, feel desperately lonely and adrift, and want to die themselves.
Why Was This Study Done?
PGD is not currently recognized as a mental disorder although it meets the requirements for one given in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) and in the World Health Organization's International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10thEdition (ICD-10). Before PGD can be recognized as a mental disorder (and included in DSM-V and ICD-11), bereavement and mental-health experts need to agree on standardized criteria for PGD. Such criteria would be useful because they would allow researchers and clinicians to identify risk factors for PGD and to find ways to prevent PGD. They would also help to ensure that people with PGD get appropriate treatments such as psychotherapy to help them change their way of thinking about their loss and re-engage with the world. Recently, a panel of experts agreed on a consensus list of symptoms for PGD. In this study, the researchers undertake a field trial to develop and evaluate algorithms (sets of rules) for diagnosing PGD based on these symptoms.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used “item response theory” (IRT) to derive the most informative PGD symptoms from structured interviews of nearly 300 people who had recently lost a close family member. These interviews contained questions about the consensus list of symptoms; each participant was interviewed two or three times during the two years after their spouse's death. The researchers then used “combinatoric” analysis to identify the most sensitive and specific algorithm for the diagnosis of PGD. This algorithm specifies that a bereaved person with PGD must experience yearning (physical or emotional suffering because of an unfulfilled desire for reunion with the deceased) and at least five of nine additional symptoms. These symptoms (which include emotional numbness, feeling that life is meaningless, and avoidance of the reality of the loss) must persist for at least 6 months after the bereavement and must be associated with functional impairment. Finally, the researchers show that individuals given a diagnosis of PGD 6–12 months after a death have a higher subsequent risk of mental health and functional impairment than people not diagnosed with PGD.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings validate a set of symptoms and a diagnostic algorithm for PGD. Because most of the study participants were elderly women who had lost their husband, further validation is needed to check that these symptoms and algorithm also apply to other types of bereaved people such as individuals who have lost a child. For now, though, these findings support the inclusion of PGD in DSM-V and ICD-11 as a recognized mental disorder. Furthermore, the availability of a standardized way to diagnose PGD will help clinicians identify the minority of people who fail to adjust successfully to the loss of a loved one. Hopefully, by identifying these people and helping them to avoid the onset of PGD (perhaps by providing psychotherapy soon after a death) and/or providing better treatment for PGD, it should now be possible to reduce the considerable personal and societal costs associated with prolonged grief.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Stephen Workman
The Dana Farber Cancer Institute has a page describing its Center for Psycho-oncology and Palliative Care Research
The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists has a leaflet on bereavement (in English, Welsh, Urdu, and Chinese)
The US National Cancer Institute also has information about coping with bereavement for patients and health professionals (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus has links to other information about bereavement (in English and Spanish)
The Journal of the American Medical Association has a patient page on abnormal grief
Harvard Medical School provides a short family health guide about complicated grief
Information on DSM-IV and ICD-10 is available
PMCID: PMC2711304  PMID: 19652695
18.  Application of the 2010 ACR/EULAR classification criteria in patients with very early inflammatory arthritis: analysis of sensitivity, specificity and predictive values in the SAVE study cohort 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;72(8):1335-1341.
Performance of the 2010 American College of Rheumatology (ACR)/European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) rheumatoid arthritis (RA) criteria was analysed in an internationally recruited early arthritis cohort (≤16 weeks symptom duration) enrolled in the ‘Stop-Arthritis-Very-Early’ trial. This sample includes patients with a variety of diseases diagnosed during follow-up.
Two endpoints were defined: Investigators’ diagnosis and disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) treatment start during the 12-month follow-up. The 2010 criteria were applied to score Patients’ baseline data. Sensitivity, specificity, predictive values and areas under the receiver operating curves of this scoring with respect to both endpoints were calculated and compared to the 1987 criteria. The optimum level of agreement between the endpoints and the 2010 classification score ways estimated by Cohen’s ϰ coefficients.
303 patients had 12-months follow-up. Positive predictive values of the 2010 criteria were 0.68 and 0.71 for RA-diagnosis and DMARD-start, respectively. Sensitivity for RA-diagnosis was 0.85, for DMARD-start 0.8, whereas the 1987 criteria’s sensitivities were 0.65 and 0.55. The areas under the receiver operating curves of the 2010 criteria for RA-diagnosis and DMARD-start were 0.83 and 0.78. Analysis of inter-rater-agreement using Cohen’s ϰ demonstrated the highest ϰ values (0.5 for RA-diagnosis and 0.43 for DMARD-start) for the score of 6.
In this international very early arthritis cohort predictive and discriminative abilities of the 2010 ACR/EULAR classification criteria were satisfactory and substantially superior to the ‘old’ 1987 classification criteria. This easier classification of RA in early stages will allow targeting truly early disease stages with appropriate therapy.
PMCID: PMC3711367  PMID: 22984174
Arthritis; Early Rheumatoid Arthritis; Outcomes research; Rheumatoid Arthritis; Treatment
19.  Validation of ACR/EULAR definition of remission in rheumatoid arthritis from RA practice: the ESPOIR cohort 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(3):R156.
In development of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR)/European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) rheumatoid arthritis (RA) remission definitions using clinical trials data, one criterion used to compare different remission definitions was whether, compared with those not in remission, those in remission had evidence of later disease stability defined by x-ray and functional status. Validation of the RA remission criteria using observational study data is necessary before recommending their use in practice.
Using data from those who met RA criteria in the ESPOIR cohort, we matched each person in remission with a person not in remission and then carried out analyses comparing later stability of x-ray and health assessment questionnaire (HAQ) between the two groups. We compared the predictive validity of the same candidate definitions of remission evaluated in the ACR/EULAR process. To minimize potential bias and produce more stable results, we used a bootstrap resampling approach to select those not in remission, repeating the sample matching analysis process 500 times.
Results were similar to those of clinical trials analyzed for the ACR/EULAR remission criteria. Specifically, the ACR/EULAR remission definitions using either an simple disease activity index (SDAI) ≤ 3.3, clinical disease activity index (CDAI) ≤ 2.8 or a definition of remission requiring tender joint count, swollen joint count, patient global assessment all ≤ 1 performed as well or better than other candidate definitions of remission in terms of predicting later x-ray and function stability.
ACR/EULAR definitions of remission developed for trials are similarly valid in observational studies in RA and could be used in practice.
PMCID: PMC3446542  PMID: 22747951
20.  Diagnostic accuracy of blood B-cell subset profiling and autoimmunity markers in Sjögren’s syndrome 
The aims of this study were to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of blood B-cell subset profiling and immune-system activation marker assays in primary Sjögren’s syndrome (pSS) and to assess whether adding these tools to the current laboratory item would improve the American-European Consensus Group (AECG) criteria.
In a single-center cohort of patients with suspected pSS, we tested the diagnostic performance of anti-SSA, antinuclear antibody (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF), gammaglobulins, IgG titers, and B-cell ratio defined as (Bm2 + Bm2′)/(eBm5 + Bm5), determined using flow cytometry. The reference standard was a clinical diagnosis of pSS established by a panel of experts.
Of 181 patients included in the study, 77 had pSS. By logistic regression analysis, only ANA ≥1:640 (sensitivity, 70.4%; specificity 83.2%) and B-cell ratio ≥5 (sensitivity, 52.1%; specificity, 83.2%) showed independent associations with pSS of similar strength. In anti-SSA-negative patients, presence of either of these two criteria had 71.0% sensitivity but only 67.3% specificity for pSS; whereas combining both criteria had 96.2% specificity but only 12.9% sensitivity. Adding either of these two criteria to the AECG criteria set increased sensitivity from 83.1% to 90.9% but decreased specificity from 97.1% to 85.6%, whereas adding both criteria in combination did not substantially modify the diagnostic performance of the criteria set. The adjunction of RF + ANA ≥1:320, as proposed in the new American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria, did not improve the diagnostic value of anti-SSA.
Blood B-cell subset profiling is a simple test that has good diagnostic properties for pSS. However, adding this test, with or without ANA positivity, does not improve current classification criteria.
PMCID: PMC3978459  PMID: 24433480
21.  Pain persists in DAS28 rheumatoid arthritis remission but not in ACR/EULAR remission: a longitudinal observational study 
Disease remission has become a feasible goal for most rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients; however, patient-reported symptoms, such as pain, may persist despite remission. We assessed the prevalence of pain in RA patients in remission according to the Disease Activity Score (DAS28-CRP4) and the American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism (ACR/EULAR) remission criteria.
Data were analyzed from RA patients in the Brigham Rheumatoid Arthritis Sequential Study with data at baseline and 1 year. DAS28 remission was defined as DAS28-CRP4 <2.6. The ACR/EULAR remission criteria included (a) one or more swollen joints, (b) one or more tender joints, (c) C-reactive protein ≤1 mg/dl, and (d) patient global assessment score ≤1. Pain severity was measured by using the pain score from the Multi-Dimensional Health Assessment Questionnaire (MDHAQ). The associations between baseline clinical predictors and MDHAQ pain at baseline and 1 year were assessed by using multivariable linear regression.
Among the 865 patients with data at baseline and 1 year, 157 (18.2%) met DAS28-CRP4 remission criteria at both time points. Thirty-seven (4.3%) met the ACR/EULAR remission criteria at baseline and 1 year. The prevalence of clinically significant pain (MDHAQ pain ≥4) at baseline ranged from 11.9% among patients meeting DAS28-CRP4 remission criteria to none among patients meeting ACR/EULAR remission criteria. Patient global assessment, MDHAQ function, MDHAQ fatigue, MDHAQ sleep, and arthritis self-efficacy were significantly associated with MDHAQ pain in cross-sectional (P ≤ 0.0005) and longitudinal analyses (P ≤ 0.03). Low swollen-joint counts were associated with high MDHAQ pain in longitudinal analyses (P = 0.02) but not cross-sectional analyses. Other measures of inflammatory disease activity and joint damage were not significantly associated with MDHAQ pain at baseline or at 1 year.
Clinically significant pain continues among a substantial proportion of patients in DAS28 remission but not among those in ACR/EULAR remission. Among patients in DAS28 remission, patient global assessment, disability, fatigue, sleep problems, and self-efficacy are strongly associated with pain severity at baseline and 1 year, whereas inflammatory disease activity and joint damage are not significantly associated with elevated pain severity at either baseline or 1 year.
PMCID: PMC3218896  PMID: 21651807
22.  Derivation and Validation of Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics Classification Criteria for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(8):2677-2686.
The Systemic Lupus Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) revised and validated the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) SLE classification criteria in order to improve clinical relevance, meet stringent methodology requirements and incorporate new knowledge in SLE immunology.
The classification criteria were derived from a set of 702 expert-rated patient scenarios. Recursive partitioning was used to derive an initial rule that was simplified and refined based on SLICC physician consensus. SLICC validated the classification criteria in a new validation sample of 690 SLE patients and controls.
Seventeen criteria were identified. The SLICC criteria for SLE classification requires: 1) Fulfillment of at least four criteria, with at least one clinical criterion AND one immunologic criterion OR 2) Lupus nephritis as the sole clinical criterion in the presence of ANA or anti-dsDNA antibodies. In the derivation set, the SLICC classification criteria resulted in fewer misclassifications than the current ACR classification criteria (49 versus 70, p=0.0082), had greater sensitivity (94% versus 86%, p<0.0001) and equal specificity (92% versus 93%, p=0.39). In the validation set, the SLICC Classification criteria resulted in fewer misclassifications (62 versus 74, p=0.24), had greater sensitivity (97% versus 83%, p<0.0001) but less specificity (84% versus 96%, p<0.0001).
The new SLICC classification criteria performed well on a large set of patient scenarios rated by experts. They require that at least one clinical criterion and one immunologic criterion be present for a classification of SLE. Biopsy confirmed nephritis compatible with lupus (in the presence of SLE autoantibodies) is sufficient for classification.
PMCID: PMC3409311  PMID: 22553077
23.  Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Activity Measures: American College of Rheumatology Recommendations for Use in Clinical Practice 
Arthritis care & research  2012;64(5):640-647.
Although the systematic measurement of disease activity facilitates clinical decision making in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), no recommendations currently exist on which measures should be applied in clinical practice in the US. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) convened a Working Group (WG) to comprehensively evaluate the validity, feasibility, and acceptability of available RA disease activity measures and derive recommendations for their use in clinical practice.
The Rheumatoid Arthritis Clinical Disease Activity Measures Working Group conducted a systematic review of the literature to identify RA disease activity measures. Using exclusion criteria, input from an Expert Advisory Panel (EAP), and psychometric analysis, a list of potential measures was created. A survey was administered to rheumatologists soliciting input. The WG used these survey results in conjunction with the psychometric analyses to derive final recommendations.
Systematic review of the literature resulted in identification of 63 RA disease activity measures. Application of exclusion criteria and ratings by the EAP narrowed the list to 14 measures for further evaluation. Practicing rheumatologists rated 9 of these 14 measures as most useful and feasible. From these 9 measures, the WG selected 6 with the best psychometric properties for inclusion in the final set of ACR-recommended RA disease activity measures.
We recommend the Clinical Disease Activity Index, Disease Activity Score with 28-joint counts (erythrocyte sedimentation rate or C-reactive protein), Patient Activity Scale (PAS), PAS-II, Routine Assessment of Patient Index Data with 3 measures, and Simplified Disease Activity Index because they are accurate reflections of disease activity; are sensitive to change; discriminate well between low, moderate, and high disease activity states; have remission criteria; and are feasible to perform in clinical settings.
PMCID: PMC4028066  PMID: 22473918
24.  Mortality Trends in Patients With Early Rheumatoid Arthritis Over 20 Years: Results From the Norfolk Arthritis Register 
Arthritis Care & Research  2014;66(9):1296-1301.
To examine mortality rates in UK patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) from 1990–2011 and compare with population trends.
The Norfolk Arthritis Register (NOAR) recruited adults with ≥2 swollen joints for ≥4 weeks: cohort 1 (1990–1994), cohort 2 (1995–1999), and cohort 3 (2000–2004). At baseline, serum rheumatoid factor and anti–citrullinated protein antibody were measured and the 2010 American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism RA classification criteria were applied. Patients were followed for 7 years, until emigration or death. The UK Office for National Statistics notified the NOAR of the date and cause of deaths, and provided mortality rates for the Norfolk population. All-cause and cardiovascular-specific standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated. Poisson regression was used to compare mortality rate ratios (MRRs) between cohorts and then, with cubic splines, to model rates by calendar year. Analyses were performed in patients 1) with early inflammatory arthritis, 2) classified as having RA, and 3) autoantibody positive.
A total of 2,517 patients were included, with 1,639 women (65%) and median age 55 years, and 1,419 (56%) fulfilled the 2010 RA criteria. All-cause and cardiovascular-specific SMRs were significantly elevated in the antibody-positive groups. There was no change in mortality rates over time after accounting for changes in the population rates. In RA patients, all-cause MRRs, compared to cohort 1, were 1.13 (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.84–1.52) and 1.00 (95% CI 0.70–1.43) in cohorts 2 and 3, respectively.
Mortality rates were increased in patients with RA and SMRs were particularly elevated in those who were autoantibody positive. Compared to the general population, mortality rates have not improved over the past 20 years.
PMCID: PMC4226330  PMID: 24497371
25.  Response criteria for rheumatoid arthritis in clinical practice: how useful are they? 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2005;64(8):1186-1189.
Objective: To compare the performance of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), and simple disease activity index (SDAI) response criteria for rheumatoid arthritis at the individual level in an observational cohort.
Methods: 184 outpatients were followed using a structured protocol. For each patient, the responses according to ACR 20% and 50%, EULAR moderate and good, and SDAI minor and major responses were calculated. For comparison, improvements in health assessment questionnaire (HAQ) score of 0.22 and 0.5 were calculated. The numbers of individuals fulfilling the criteria at each level were compared, and the numbers fulfilling any two sets of response criteria calculated. The EULAR "moderate" and "good" responses were grouped together as "overall," and SDAI "minor" and "major" were merged into SDAI "overall".
Results: All 94 ACR 20 responders were found in the EULAR and SDAI "overall" response groups, and 118 of 124 SDAI "overall" responders were found in the EULAR "overall" group. In contrast, of 53 ACR 50 responders, only 34 were found in the EULAR "good" or SDAI "major" group. Among the 56 patients in the EULAR "good" response group, only 26 met the SDAI "major" response. Improvement in HAQ score performed similarly to the other response criteria sets at the group levels.
Conclusions: For individual patients, agreement is good at the level of ACR 20 response, when EULAR overall, SDAI overall, or HAQ 0.22 criteria are applied. Agreement between ACR 50, EULAR good, SDAI major, and HAQ 0.5 response is poor. This should be considered when response criteria are used for clinical decisions.
PMCID: PMC1755621  PMID: 15760931

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