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author:("aleta, Daniel")
1.  Treating rheumatoid arthritis to target: 2014 update of the recommendations of an international task force 
Reaching the therapeutic target of remission or low-disease activity has improved outcomes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) significantly. The treat-to-target recommendations, formulated in 2010, have provided a basis for implementation of a strategic approach towards this therapeutic goal in routine clinical practice, but these recommendations need to be re-evaluated for appropriateness and practicability in the light of new insights.
To update the 2010 treat-to-target recommendations based on systematic literature reviews (SLR) and expert opinion.
A task force of rheumatologists, patients and a nurse specialist assessed the SLR results and evaluated the individual items of the 2010 recommendations accordingly, reformulating many of the items. These were subsequently discussed, amended and voted upon by >40 experts, including 5 patients, from various regions of the world. Levels of evidence, strengths of recommendations and levels of agreement were derived.
The update resulted in 4 overarching principles and 10 recommendations. The previous recommendations were partly adapted and their order changed as deemed appropriate in terms of importance in the view of the experts. The SLR had now provided also data for the effectiveness of targeting low-disease activity or remission in established rather than only early disease. The role of comorbidities, including their potential to preclude treatment intensification, was highlighted more strongly than before. The treatment aim was again defined as remission with low-disease activity being an alternative goal especially in patients with long-standing disease. Regular follow-up (every 1–3 months during active disease) with according therapeutic adaptations to reach the desired state was recommended. Follow-up examinations ought to employ composite measures of disease activity that include joint counts. Additional items provide further details for particular aspects of the disease, especially comorbidity and shared decision-making with the patient. Levels of evidence had increased for many items compared with the 2010 recommendations, and levels of agreement were very high for most of the individual recommendations (≥9/10).
The 4 overarching principles and 10 recommendations are based on stronger evidence than before and are supposed to inform patients, rheumatologists and other stakeholders about strategies to reach optimal outcomes of RA.
PMCID: PMC4717393  PMID: 25969430
Rheumatoid Arthritis; Outcomes research; Treatment; Early Rheumatoid Arthritis; Disease Activity
2.  Rheumatoid factor, not antibodies against citrullinated proteins, is associated with baseline disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis clinical trials 
Although the prognostic value of rheumatoid factor (RF) and autoantibodies against citrullinated proteins (ACPAs) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is well established, their association with RA disease activity remains unclear. Here, we investigate this association in a large study using data from clinical trials.
We used baseline data from four recent randomized controlled clinical trials of RA. We investigated individual and composite measures of disease activity. The relationship of RF and ACPAs with these measures was investigated by using stratified analysis (comparing four groups of patients according to the presence or absence of RF and ACPAs) and matched analysis (disease activity levels compared between patients negative and patients highly positive for one autoantibody who were matched for levels of the other autoantibody as well as for age, gender, and duration of RA).
A total of 2118 patients were analysed in the different cohorts. In the stratified analysis, RF+ patients, regardless of ACPA status, had the highest levels of disease activity, whereas ACPA+ patients had disease activity that was similar to or lower than that of ACPA− patients, both in the presence and in the absence of RF. When matched for ACPA levels, patients with highly positive RF had significantly higher disease activity for all composite indices compared with patients who were RF− (P = 0.0067), whereas ACPA-highly-positive and ACPA-negative patients matched for RF levels had similar disease activity, again even with the tendency toward lower disease activity for ACPA+ patients (P = 0.054).
The data presented suggest that the presence of RF has a clear association with higher levels of disease activity but that the presence of ACPAs has not and even appears to be associated with lower disease activity.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0736-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4549866  PMID: 26307354
3.  Physical function continues to improve when clinical remission is sustained in rheumatoid arthritis patients 
To investigate the course of functional status assessed by health assessment questionnaire (HAQ) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients with sustained clinical remission (REM).
In recent RA clinical trials, we identified patients with subsequent visits of ≥24 weeks in clinical REM according to the disease activity score using 28-joint counts including C-reactive protein (DAS28) (≤2.6), or simplified disease activity index (SDAI) (≤3.3). Area under the curve (AUC) and mean HAQ scores throughout the time in sustained REM were compared using t test, analyses of variance (ANOVA) and adjusted general linear modeling (GLM) with repeated measures. In Cox regression analyses, the time to regain full physical function was modeled. Sensitivity analyses were performed in patients of sustained SDAI low disease activity (LDA; SDAI ≤11).
A total of 610 out of 4364 patients achieved sustained DAS28 REM (14 %) and 252 SDAI REM (5.8 %). ANOVA testing for linear trend showed significant decrease of mean HAQ from week 0 (start of REM) to week 24, regardless of REM criteria used. AUC of HAQ throughout 24 weeks of REM was higher in DAS28 compared to SDAI REM (p ≤0.01). GLM adjusting for covariates showed significant decrease of monthly HAQ scores from week 0 to 24 (DAS28: 0.276, 0.243, 0.229, 0.222, 0.219, 0.209 to 0.199; p = 0.0001; SDAI: 0.147, 0.142, 0.149, 0.129, 0.123, 0.117 to 0.114; p = 0.029). Similarly, a decrease of HAQ over time was found in patients of sustained SDAI LDA. In DAS28 REM, the chance of regaining full physical function was higher for female (hazard ratio HR [95 % confidence interval]: 1.41 [1.13–1.76]) and early RA patients (disease duration ≤2 years: HR 1.29 [1.01–1.65]); in SDAI REM no significant differences were found.
Physical function continues to improve if the target of REM or LDA is sustained. The stringency of the remission criteria determines achievement of the best possible functional improvement.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0719-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4530479  PMID: 26259838
4.  Development of EULAR recommendations for the reporting of clinical trial extension studies in rheumatology 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2014;74(6):963-969.
Our initiative aimed to produce recommendations on post-randomised controlled trial (RCT) trial extension studies (TES) reporting using European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) standard operating procedures in order to achieve more meaningful output and standardisation of reports.
We formed a task force of 22 participants comprising RCT experts, clinical epidemiologists and patient representatives. A two-stage Delphi survey was conducted to discuss the domains of evaluation of a TES and definitions. A ‘0–10’ agreement scale assessed each domain and definition. The resulting set of recommendations was further refined and a final vote taken for task force acceptance.
Seven key domains and individual components were evaluated and led to agreed recommendations including definition of a TES (100% agreement), minimal data necessary (100% agreement), method of data analysis (agreement mean (SD) scores ranging between 7.9 (0.84) and 9.0 (2.16)) and reporting of results as well as ethical issues. Key recommendations included reporting of absolute numbers at each stage from the RCT to TES with reasons given for drop-out at each stage, and inclusion of a flowchart detailing change in numbers at each stage and focus (mean (SD) agreement 9.9 (0.36)). A final vote accepted the set of recommendations.
This EULAR task force provides recommendations for implementation in future TES to ensure a standardised approach to reporting. Use of this document should provide the rheumatology community with a more accurate and meaningful output from future TES, enabling better understanding and more confident application in clinical practice towards improving patient outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4431343  PMID: 24827533
Rheumatoid Arthritis; DMARDs (biologic); Epidemiology
5.  EULAR recommendations for the management of rheumatoid arthritis with synthetic and biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs: 2013 update 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2013;73(3):492-509.
In this article, the 2010 European League against Rheumatism (EULAR) recommendations for the management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with synthetic and biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (sDMARDs and bDMARDs, respectively) have been updated. The 2013 update has been developed by an international task force, which based its decisions mostly on evidence from three systematic literature reviews (one each on sDMARDs, including glucocorticoids, bDMARDs and safety aspects of DMARD therapy); treatment strategies were also covered by the searches. The evidence presented was discussed and summarised by the experts in the course of a consensus finding and voting process. Levels of evidence and grades of recommendations were derived and levels of agreement (strengths of recommendations) were determined. Fourteen recommendations were developed (instead of 15 in 2010). Some of the 2010 recommendations were deleted, and others were amended or split. The recommendations cover general aspects, such as attainment of remission or low disease activity using a treat-to-target approach, and the need for shared decision-making between rheumatologists and patients. The more specific items relate to starting DMARD therapy using a conventional sDMARD (csDMARD) strategy in combination with glucocorticoids, followed by the addition of a bDMARD or another csDMARD strategy (after stratification by presence or absence of adverse risk factors) if the treatment target is not reached within 6 months (or improvement not seen at 3 months). Tumour necrosis factor inhibitors (adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, etanercept, golimumab, infliximab, biosimilars), abatacept, tocilizumab and, under certain circumstances, rituximab are essentially considered to have similar efficacy and safety. If the first bDMARD strategy fails, any other bDMARD may be used. The recommendations also address tofacitinib as a targeted sDMARD (tsDMARD), which is recommended, where licensed, after use of at least one bDMARD. Biosimilars are also addressed. These recommendations are intended to inform rheumatologists, patients, national rheumatology societies and other stakeholders about EULAR's most recent consensus on the management of RA with sDMARDs, glucocorticoids and bDMARDs. They are based on evidence and expert opinion and intended to improve outcome in patients with RA.
PMCID: PMC3933074  PMID: 24161836
Rheumatoid Arthritis; DMARDs (synthetic); DMARDs (biologic); Treatment; Early Rheumatoid Arthritis
6.  Remission in rheumatoid arthritis: benefit over low disease activity in patient-reported outcomes and costs 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes a considerable burden for the patient and society. It is not clear yet whether aiming for remission (REM) is worthwhile, especially when compared with low disease activity (LDA).
In 356 consecutive RA patients, we obtained data on physical function (health assessment questionnaire (HAQ)), health-related quality of life (HRQoL: Short Form 36 (SF36), Short Form 6 dimensions (SF-6D), Euro QoL 5D (EQ-5D)), work productivity (work productivity and activity impairment questionnaire (WPAI)), as well as estimation of direct and indirect costs. Cross-sectionally, data were compared in patients within different levels of disease activity according to the simplified disease activity index (SDAI; remission (REM ≤3.3); n = 87; low disease activity (LDA: 3.3 < SDAI ≤11); n = 103; moderate to high disease activity (MDA/HDA) >11 n = 119) by using analyses of variance (ANOVA). Longitudinal investigations assessed patients who changed from LDA to REM and vice versa.
We found differences in patients achieving REM compared with LDA for HAQ (0.39 ± 0.58 versus 0.72 ± 68), WPAI (percentage impairment while working 11.8% ± 18.7% versus 26.8% ± 23.9%; percentage of overall activity impairment, 10.8% ± 14.1% versus 29.0% ± 23.6%)), EQ-5D (0.89 ± 0.12 versus 0.78 ± 0.6) and SF-36 (physical component score (PCS): 46.0 ± 8.6 versus 38.3 ± 10.5; mental component score (MCS): 49.9 ± 11.1 versus 47.9 ± 12.3) (P < 0.01 for all, except for SF36 MCS). Regarding costs, we found significant differences of direct and indirect costs (P < 0.05) within different levels of disease activity, with higher costs in patients with higher states of disease activity. Longitudinal evaluations confirmed the main analyses.
Patients with REM show better function, HRQoL, and productivity, even when compared with another good state, such as LDA. Also from a cost perspective, REM appears superior to all other states.
PMCID: PMC3979137  PMID: 24555808
7.  Patient-reported Outcomes in Chronic Gout: A Report from OMERACT 10 
The Journal of rheumatology  2011;38(7):10.3899/jrheum.110271.
To summarize the endorsement of measures of patient-reported outcome (PRO) domains in chronic gout at the 2010 Outcome Measures in Rheumatology Meeting (OMERACT 10).
During the OMERACT 10 gout workshop, validation data were presented for key PRO domains including pain [pain by visual analog scale (VAS)], patient global (patient global VAS), activity limitation [Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disability Index (HAQ-DI)], and a disease-specific measure, the Gout Assessment Questionnaire version 2.0 (GAQ v2.0). Data were presented on all 3 aspects of the OMERACT filters of truth, discrimination, and feasibility. One PRO, health-related quality of life measurement with the Medical Outcomes Study Short-form 36 (SF-36), was previously endorsed at OMERACT 9.
One measure for each of the 3 PRO of pain, patient global, and activity limitation was endorsed by > 70% of the OMERACT delegates to have appropriate validation data. Specifically, pain measurement by VAS was endorsed by 85%, patient global assessment by VAS by 73%, and activity limitation by HAQ-DI by 71%. GAQ v2.0 received 30% vote and was not endorsed due to several concerns including low internal consistency and lack of familiarity with the measure. More validation studies are needed for this measure.
With the endorsement of one measure each for pain, patient global, SF-36, and activity limitation, all 4 PRO for chronic gout have been endorsed. Future validation studies are needed for the disease-specific measure, GAQ v2.0. Validation for PRO for acute gout will be the focus of the next validation exercise for the OMERACT gout group.
PMCID: PMC3850171  PMID: 21724715
8.  Nothing lasts forever - a critical look at sustained remission 
Remission is key to prevent progression of rheumatoid arthritis, but it is still rarely seen in clinical practice, not to speak of sustained remission, which is the best possible disease outcome of rheumatoid arthritis. New strategies and recommendations focus on achievement of remission, but it is unclear how long remission can actually be maintained in clinical practice. A study by Prince and colleagues gives insights into this question, and raises some other questions for the future.
PMCID: PMC3446473  PMID: 22577881
9.  Multinational evidence-based recommendations for pain management by pharmacotherapy in inflammatory arthritis: integrating systematic literature research and expert opinion of a broad panel of rheumatologists in the 3e Initiative 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2012;51(8):1416-1425.
Objective. To develop evidence-based recommendations for pain management by pharmacotherapy in patients with inflammatory arthritis (IA).
Methods. A total of 453 rheumatologists from 17 countries participated in the 2010 3e (Evidence, Expertise, Exchange) Initiative. Using a formal voting process, 89 rheumatologists representing all 17 countries selected 10 clinical questions regarding the use of pain medications in IA. Bibliographic fellows undertook a systematic literature review for each question, using MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane CENTRAL and 2008–09 European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR)/ACR abstracts. Relevant studies were retrieved for data extraction and quality assessment. Rheumatologists from each country used this evidence to develop a set of national recommendations. Multinational recommendations were then formulated and assessed for agreement and the potential impact on clinical practice.
Results. A total of 49 242 references were identified, from which 167 studies were included in the systematic reviews. One clinical question regarding different comorbidities was divided into two separate reviews, resulting in 11 recommendations in total. Oxford levels of evidence were applied to each recommendation. The recommendations related to the efficacy and safety of various analgesic medications, pain measurement scales and pain management in the pre-conception period, pregnancy and lactation. Finally, an algorithm for the pharmacological management of pain in IA was developed. Twenty per cent of rheumatologists reported that the algorithm would change their practice, and 75% felt the algorithm was in accordance with their current practice.
Conclusions. Eleven evidence-based recommendations on the management of pain by pharmacotherapy in IA were developed. They are supported by a large panel of rheumatologists from 17 countries, thus enhancing their utility in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3397467  PMID: 22447886
arthritis; evidence-based medicine; analgesics
10.  Value of self-performed joint counts in rheumatoid arthritis patients near remission 
To determine the validity and reliability of patients' self-performed joint counts compared to joint counts by professional assessors in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in different disease activity states.
In patients with established RA we determined the inter-rater reliability of joint counts performed by an independent evaluator and the patient using intraclass correlation (ICC), and agreement on activity in individual joints by kappa statistics. We also performed longitudinal analyses to assess consistency of assessments over time. Finally, we investigated the concordance of joint counts of different assessors in patients with different levels of disease activity.
The reliability of patient self-performed joint counts was high when compared to independent objective assessment (ICC; 95%confidence interval (CI)) for the assessment of swelling (0.32; 0.15 to 0.46) and tenderness (0.75; 0.66 to 0.81), with higher agreement for larger joints (kappa: 0.57 and 0.45, respectively) compared to smaller joints (metacarpo-phalangeal joint (MCPs): 0.31 and 0.45; and proximal interphalangeal joint (PIPs): 0.22 and 0.47, for swelling and tenderness, respectively).
Patients in remission according to the Simplified Disease Activity Index (SDAI ≤ 3.3) showed better concordance of the joint counts (swollen joint count (SJC) ties 25/37, tender joint count (TJC) ties 26/37) compared to moderate/high disease activity states (SDAI > 11; MDA/HDA: SJC ties 9/72, TJC ties 21/72). Positive and negative predictive values regarding the presence of SDAI remission were reasonably good (0.86 and 0.95, respectively). A separate training session for patients did not improve the reliability of joint assessment. The results were consistent in the longitudinal analyses.
Self-performed joint counts are particularly useful for monitoring in patients having attained remission, as these patients seem able to detect state of remission.
PMCID: PMC3446429  PMID: 22417647
11.  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
12.  Treating rheumatic patients with a malignancy 
Management of patients with inflammatory rheumatic disease and a history of (or even a current) malignant disease poses some particular challenges. As direct evidence of the risk of (recurrent or de novo) malignancy in patients with a history of malignant disease is scarce, such a risk may be estimated indirectly from the principal carcinogenicity of the respective drug to be used or (also indirectly) from cancer reactivation data from the transplant literature. In general, cancer risk is increased in patients receiving combination immunosuppressive treatment, but the risk in patients receiving individual drugs (with the exception of alkylating agents) remains entirely unclear. Indirect evidence supports the intuitive concept that the risk of cancer decreases over time after a successful cancer treatment. The only two studies in rheumatic patients with a cancer history were small and have not been able to show an increase in cancer reactivation. The risk of reactivation also depends on the site and location of the prior malignancy. In conclusion, the decision to treat a patient with a history of cancer immunosuppressively should be shared by the rheumatologist and the oncologist. Once the decision is established, such patients need intensive and close monitoring.
PMCID: PMC3218895  PMID: 21722342
14.  The 2010 American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism Classification Criteria for Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(9):2582-2591.
The American College of Rheumatology and the European League Against Rheumatism have developed new classification criteria for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The aim of Phase 2 of the development process was to achieve expert consensus on the clinical and laboratory variables that should contribute to the final criteria set.
Twenty-four expert RA clinicians (12 from Europe and 12 from North America) participated in Phase 2. A consensus-based decision analysis approach was used to identify factors (and their relative weights) that influence the probability of “developing RA,” complemented by data from the Phase 1 study. Patient case scenarios were used to identify and reach consensus on factors important in determining the probability of RA development. Decision analytic software was used to derive the relative weights for each of the factors and their categories, using choice-based conjoint analysis.
The expert panel agreed that the new classification criteria should be applied to individuals with undifferentiated inflammatory arthritis in whom at least 1 joint is deemed by an expert assessor to be swollen, indicating definite synovitis. In this clinical setting, they identified 4 additional criteria as being important: number of joints involved and site of involvement, serologic abnormality, acute-phase response, and duration of symptoms in the involved joints. These criteria were consistent with those identified in the Phase 1 data-driven approach.
The consensus-based, decision analysis approach used in Phase 2 complemented the Phase 1 efforts. The 4 criteria and their relative weights form the basis of the final criteria set.
PMCID: PMC3077961  PMID: 20872596
15.  Endothelial progenitor cells in active rheumatoid arthritis: effects of tumour necrosis factor and glucocorticoid therapy 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(10):1284-1288.
To study the effects of short‐term intermediate dose glucocorticoid (GC) therapy in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPC), which are known to influence cardiovascular risk, and to elucidate mechanisms potentially responsible for the reduction of EPCs in patients with active RA.
EPCs were quantified in 29 patients with active RA by flow cytometry, colony forming unit (CFU) and circulating angiogenic cell (CAC) assays before and after 7 days of intermediate dose GC therapy. CFU from patients with RA and from healthy referents (HR) were cultured in vitro in the absence or presence of dexamethasone (Dex) and/or TNF.
After 1 week of GC therapy, EPC increased from 0.026 (SD 0.003)% to 0.053 (SD 0.010)% (p<0.01), and from 12 (SD 4) to 27 (SD 7) CFU/well (p<0.02); CAC also increased from 7 (SD 2) to 29 (SD 8) cells/high power field (p<0.05). In parallel, disease activity decreased significantly after GC treatment. TNF serum levels also decreased from 36 (SD 10) to 14 (SD 6) pg/ml (p<0.0001). Addition of Dex to the RA CFU led to a significant increase of mean CFU counts, whereas addition of TNF induced a decrease of CFU.
Our data indicate that TNF may be at least partly responsible for the reduction of EPC seen in patients with RA. Intermediate doses of GCs for a short period of time, apart from reducing disease activity, significantly increase circulating EPC.
PMCID: PMC1994291  PMID: 17293363
16.  From the item to the outcome: the promising prospects of PROMIS 
Evaluation of patient reported outcomes, and in particular physical function, have gained increasing importance in research and therapy of patients with rheumatic diseases. Most instruments that are used for that purpose are rigid and suffer from floor and ceiling effects when used in patients whose physical function differs from the average. A new approach to the assessment of physical function uses computerised adaptive testing, by which precision and reliability of the measurement can be achieved for most patients, while even requiring less time for the assessment. Well calibrated and tested item and large item data banks are a prerequisite for this purpose, a process that is summarised in the present report by Bruce and colleagues.
PMCID: PMC2875637  PMID: 20156319
17.  EULAR recommendations for the management of rheumatoid arthritis with synthetic and biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;69(6):964-975.
Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may differ among rheumatologists and currently, clear and consensual international recommendations on RA treatment are not available. In this paper recommendations for the treatment of RA with synthetic and biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and glucocorticoids (GCs) that also account for strategic algorithms and deal with economic aspects, are described. The recommendations are based on evidence from five systematic literature reviews (SLRs) performed for synthetic DMARDs, biological DMARDs, GCs, treatment strategies and economic issues. The SLR-derived evidence was discussed and summarised as an expert opinion in the course of a Delphi-like process. Levels of evidence, strength of recommendations and levels of agreement were derived. Fifteen recommendations were developed covering an area from general aspects such as remission/low disease activity as treatment aim via the preference for methotrexate monotherapy with or without GCs vis-à-vis combination of synthetic DMARDs to the use of biological agents mainly in patients for whom synthetic DMARDs and tumour necrosis factor inhibitors had failed. Cost effectiveness of the treatments was additionally examined. These recommendations are intended to inform rheumatologists, patients and other stakeholders about a European consensus on the management of RA with DMARDs and GCs as well as strategies to reach optimal outcomes of RA, based on evidence and expert opinion.
PMCID: PMC2935329  PMID: 20444750
18.  The public neglect of rheumatic diseases: insights from analyses of attendees in a musculoskeletal disease awareness activity 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(5):697-699.
To obtain data on the care received by individuals counselled during a public health awareness campaign on painful musculoskeletal conditions (MSC).
Easy non‐formal access to rheumatologists/pain specialists was offered using a mobile unit (Rheuma‐Bus) at widely accessible sites. Clients were asked to assess their severity of pain using a 100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS). Age, gender, disease duration, diagnosis if known, current and previous treatment as well as tentative diagnoses assigned and recommendations given to each individual by the counselling physicians were recorded.
Average (SD) VAS pain rating was 59 (20.6) mm. Approximately 40% of clients had never consulted a physician for their condition before, but had lower pain scores than those who had seen a physician. Patients with inflammatory MSC had higher pain scores than those with non‐inflammatory conditions. More than 2% of the clients had a newly detected inflammatory rheumatic disease.
Many individuals having painful MSC seek medical help only when a very high threshold of pain is reached. Even while under treatment, the high mean pain scores suggest neglect of MSC that are not adequately recognised as important contributors to disability and decreased quality of life.
PMCID: PMC1954619  PMID: 17204565
19.  Evidence for treating rheumatoid arthritis to target: results of a systematic literature search 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;69(4):638-643.
To summarise existing evidence on a target oriented approach for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treatment.
We conducted a systematic literature search including all clinical trials testing clinical, functional, or structural values of a targeted treatment approach. Our search covered Medline, Embase and Cochrane databases until December 2008 and also conference abstracts (2007, 2008).
The primary search yielded 5881 citations; after the selection process, 76 papers underwent detailed review. Of these, only seven strategic clinical trials were extracted: four studies randomised patients to routine or targeted treatment, two compared two different randomised targets and one compared targeted treatment to a historical control group. Five trials dealt with early RA patients. All identified studies showed significantly better clinical outcomes of targeted approaches than routine approaches. Disability was reported in two studies with no difference between groups. Four studies compared radiographic outcomes, two showing significant benefit of the targeted approach.
Only few studies employed randomised controlled settings to test the value of treatment to a specific target. However, they provided unanimous evidence for benefits of targeted approaches. Nevertheless, more data on radiographic and functional outcomes and on patients with established RA are needed.
PMCID: PMC3015093  PMID: 20237123
20.  Treating rheumatoid arthritis to target: recommendations of an international task force 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;69(4):631-637.
Aiming at therapeutic targets has reduced the risk of organ failure in many diseases such as diabetes or hypertension. Such targets have not been defined for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
To develop recommendations for achieving optimal therapeutic outcomes in RA.
A task force of rheumatologists and a patient developed a set of recommendations on the basis of evidence derived from a systematic literature review and expert opinion; these were subsequently discussed, amended and voted upon by >60 experts from various regions of the world in a Delphi-like procedure. Levels of evidence, strength of recommendations and levels of agreement were derived.
The treat-to-target activity resulted in 10 recommendations. The treatment aim was defined as remission with low disease activity being an alternative goal in patients with long-standing disease. Regular follow-up (every 1–3 months during active disease) with appropriate therapeutic adaptation to reach the desired state within 3 to a maximum of 6 months was recommended. Follow-up examinations ought to employ composite measures of disease activity which include joint counts. Additional items provide further details for particular aspects of the disease. Levels of agreement were very high for many of these recommendations (≥9/10).
The 10 recommendations are supposed to inform patients, rheumatologists and other stakeholders about strategies to reach optimal outcomes of RA based on evidence and expert opinion.
PMCID: PMC3015099  PMID: 20215140
21.  Developments in the clinical understanding of rheumatoid arthritis 
The changes occurring in the field of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) over the past decade or two have encompassed new therapies and, in particular, a new look at the clinical characteristics of the disease in the context of therapeutic improvements. It has been shown that composite disease activity indices have special merits in following patients, that disease activity governs the evolution of joint damage, and that disability can be dissected into several components – among them disease activity and joint damage. It has also been revealed that aiming at any disease activity state other than remission (or, at worst, low disease activity) is associated with significant progression of joint destruction, that early recognition and appropriate therapy of RA are important facets of the overall strategy of optimal clinical control of the disease, and that tight control employing composite scores supports the optimization of the therapeutic approaches. Finally, with the advent of novel therapies, remission has become a reality and the treatment algorithms encompassing all of the above-mentioned aspects will allow us to achieve the rigorous aspirations of today and tomorrow.
PMCID: PMC2688215  PMID: 19232060
22.  Capturing real-life patient care in psoriatic arthritis and its risks: the challenge of analysing registry data 
Studies based on registries continue to inform us of many relevant issues in the treatment of arthritic conditions and constitute more than just a supplement of clinical trial data. We can learn about long-term aspects of therapies beyond the scope of most clinical trials and about larger-scale toxicity. The downsides need to be considered in the interpretation of the results and include mainly the biases that are inherent when routine clinical practice is just observed and not steered by a protocol. However, using steered protocols in practice not only would facilitate post hoc analyses of clinical effectiveness, but (as we have learned from research in rheumatoid arthritis) can also improve outcomes of our patients.
PMCID: PMC2714111  PMID: 19519959
23.  Disease activity level, remission and response in established rheumatoid arthritis: Performance of various criteria sets in an observational cohort, treated with anti-TNF agents 
Most composite indices of disease activity and response criteria in RA have been validated and compared in clinical trials rather than routine care. We therefore wanted to compare the performance of the DAS28, SDAI and CDAI activity indices, their activity states, their response criteria, and also compare with the ACR response criteria in an observational clinical setting.
Agreement between the criteria sets was investigated using κ statistics in a non-randomized cohort of 1789 RA patients from southern Sweden, starting their first course of anti-TNF-treatment. Mean disease duration was 12 years. Completer analysis was used.
Agreement between high, moderate and low activity states was moderate or substantial, with κ = 0.5 or better for all criteria. Agreement between SDAI and CDAI disease states was > 90% in these categories with κ > 0.8. DAS28 original and modified cut point remission had good agreement (κ = 0.91). Agreement between responses was substantial at the overall/ACR20 level (about 95%, κ = 0.7 or better) for all criteria. By contrast, agreement was poor between moderate and high level responses.
Disease activity states according to the various indices perform similarly and show substantial agreement at all levels except remission. Agreement between SDAI and CDAI states is excellent. Response criteria, applied at the individual patient level, are hard to interpret and show poor agreement, except at the lowest level of response. Thus, they should not be applied uncritically in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC2678269  PMID: 19389230
24.  The need for prognosticators in rheumatoid arthritis. Biological and clinical markers: where are we now? 
Rheumatoid arthritis is a heterogeneous disease with respect to clinical manifestations, serologic abnormalities, joint damage and functional impairment. Predicting outcome in a reliable way to allow for strategic therapeutic decision-making as well as for prediction of the response to the various therapeutic modalities available today, especially biological agents, would provide means for optimization of care. In the present article, the current information on biological and clinical markers related to disease activity and joint damage as well as for predictive purposes is reviewed. It will be shown that the relationship of many biomarkers with disease characteristics is confounded by factors unrelated to the disease, and that only few biomarkers exist with some predictive value. Moreover, clinical markers appear of equal value as biomarkers for this purpose, although they likewise have limited capacity in these regards. The analysis suggests the search for better markers to predict outcomes and therapeutic responsiveness in rheumatoid arthritis needs to be intensified.
PMCID: PMC2483438  PMID: 18557991
25.  Remission by composite scores in rheumatoid arthritis: are ankles and feet important? 
Current treatment strategies aim to achieve clinical remission in order to prevent the long-term consequences of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Several composite indices are available to assess remission. All of them include joint counts as the assessment of the major 'organ' involved in RA, but some employ reduced joint counts, such as the 28-joint count, which excludes ankles and feet.
The aim of the present study was to determine the relevance of excluding joints of the ankles and feet in the assessment of RA disease activity and remission. Using a longitudinal observational RA dataset, we analyzed 767 patients (80% female, 60% rheumatoid factor-positive), for whom joint counts had been recorded at 2,754 visits. We determined the number of affected joints by the 28-JC and the 32-JC, the latter including ankles and combined metatarso-phalangeal joints (as a block on each side).
Several findings were supportive of the validity of the 28-joint count: (a) Absence of joint swelling on the 28-joint scale had a specificity of 98.1% and a positive predictive value (PPV) of 94.1% for the absence of swelling also on the 32-joint scale. For absence of tender joints, the specificity and PPV were 96.1% and 91.7%, respectively. (b) Patients with swollen or tender joints in the 32-JC, despite no joint activity in the 28-JC, were clearly different with regard to other disease activity measures. In particular, the patient global assessment of disease activity was higher in these individuals. Thus, the difference in the joint count was not relevant for composite disease activity assessment. (c) The disease activity score based on 28 joints (DAS28) may reach levels higher than 2.6 in patients with feet swelling since these patients often have other findings that raise DAS28. (d) The frequency of remission did not change when the 28-JC was replaced by 32-JC in the composite indices. (e) The changes in joint activity over time were almost identical in longitudinal analysis.
The assessment of the ankles and feet is an important part in the clinical evaluation of patients with RA. However, reduced joint counts are appropriate and valid tools for formal disease activity assessment, such as done in composite indices.
PMCID: PMC2206375  PMID: 17662115

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