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1.  Remission in rheumatoid arthritis: benefit over low disease activity in patient-reported outcomes and costs 
Introduction
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).
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/ar4491
PMCID: PMC3979137  PMID: 24555808
2.  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.
doi:10.1186/ar3795
PMCID: PMC3446473  PMID: 22577881
3.  Value of self-performed joint counts in rheumatoid arthritis patients near remission 
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
Self-performed joint counts are particularly useful for monitoring in patients having attained remission, as these patients seem able to detect state of remission.
doi:10.1186/ar3777
PMCID: PMC3446429  PMID: 22417647
4.  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.
doi:10.1186/ar3352
PMCID: PMC3218895  PMID: 21722342
6.  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.
doi:10.1186/ar2910
PMCID: PMC2875637  PMID: 20156319
7.  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.
doi:10.1186/ar2535
PMCID: PMC2688215  PMID: 19232060
8.  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.
doi:10.1186/ar2694
PMCID: PMC2714111  PMID: 19519959
9.  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.
doi:10.1186/ar2418
PMCID: PMC2483438  PMID: 18557991
10.  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.
doi:10.1186/ar2270
PMCID: PMC2206375  PMID: 17662115
11.  Methotrexate in rheumatoid arthritis is frequently effective, even if re-employed after a previous failure 
Effectiveness of therapy with individual disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is limited, and the number of available DMARDs is finite. Therefore, at some stage during the lengthy course of RA, institution of traditional DMARDs that have previously been applied may have to be reconsidered. In the present study we investigated the effectiveness of re-employed methotrexate in patients with a history of previous methotrexate failure (original course). A total of 1,490 RA patients (80% female, 59% rheumatoid factor positive) were followed from their first presentation, yielding a total of 6,470 patient-years of observation. We identified patients in whom methotrexate was re-employed after at least one intermittent course of a different DMARD. We compared reasons for discontinuation, improvement in acute phase reactants, and cumulative retention rates of methotrexate therapy between the original course of methotrexate and its re-employment. Similar analyses were peformed for other DMARDs. Methotrexate was re-employed in 86 patients. Compared with the original courses, re-employment was associated with a reduced risk for treatment termination because of ineffectiveness (P = 0.02, by McNemar test), especially if the maximum methotrexate dose of the original course had been low (<12.5 mg/week; P = 0.02, by logistic regression). In a Cox regression model, re-employed MTX was associated with a significantly reduced hazard of treatment termination compared with the original course of methotrexate, adjusting for dose and year of employment (hazard ratio 0.64, 95% confidence interval 0.42–0.97; P = 0.04). These findings were not recapitulated in analyses of re-employment of other DMARDs. Re-employment of MTX despite prior inefficacy, but not re-employment of other DMARDs, is an effective therapeutic option, especially in those patients in whom the methotrexate dose of the original course was low.
doi:10.1186/ar1902
PMCID: PMC1526609  PMID: 16507172
12.  Pooled indices to measure rheumatoid arthritis activity: a good reflection of the physician's mind? 
Several pooled indices for the assessment of rheumatoid arthritis disease activity are available to rheumatologists. Face and criterion validity of these instruments can be assessed by determining the association of their measurements with opinions of physicians. Several confounding aspects must be considered in such analyses, especially blinding of the person(s) making the decisions to the instruments being studied and to the objective of the study in general. From several studies in the literature, there is currently no evidence that any one of the available composite indices is better or worse than any other. The choice of index in clinical practice should ideally be based on practical considerations related to the needs of the rheumatologist in the respective health care setting.
doi:10.1186/ar1870
PMCID: PMC1526578  PMID: 16542465
13.  Acute phase reactants add little to composite disease activity indices for rheumatoid arthritis: validation of a clinical activity score 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(4):R796-R806.
Introduction
Frequent assessments of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) disease activity allow timely adaptation of therapy, which is essential in preventing disease progression. However, values of acute phase reactants (APRs) are needed to calculate current composite activity indices, such as the Disease Activity Score (DAS)28, the DAS28-CRP (i.e. the DAS28 using C-reactive protein instead of erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and the Simplified Disease Activity Index (SDAI). We hypothesized that APRs make limited contribution to the SDAI, and that an SDAI-modification eliminating APRs – termed the Clinical Disease Activity Index (CDAI; i.e. the sum of tender and swollen joint counts [28 joints] and patient and physician global assessments [in cm]) – would have comparable validity in clinical cohorts.
Method
Data sources comprised an observational cohort of 767 RA patients (average disease duration 8.1 ± 10.6 years), and an independent inception cohort of 106 patients (disease duration 11.5 ± 12.5 weeks) who were followed prospectively.
Results
Our clinically based hypothesis was statistically supported: APRs accounted only for 15% of the DAS28, and for 5% of the SDAI and the DAS28-CRP. In both cohorts the CDAI correlated strongly with DAS28 (R = 0.89–0.90) and comparably to the correlation of SDAI with DAS28 (R = 0.90–0.91). In additional analyses, the CDAI when compared to the SDAI and the DAS28 agreed with a weighted kappa of 0.70 and 0.79, respectively, and comparably to the agreement between DAS28 and DAS28-CRP. All three scores correlated similarly with Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) scores (R = 0.45–0.47). The average changes in all scores were greater in patients with better American College of Rheumatology response (P < 0.0001, analysis of variance; discriminant validity). All scores exhibited similar correlations with radiological progression (construct validity) over 3 years (R = 0.54–0.58; P < 0.0001).
Conclusion
APRs add little information on top (and independent) of the combination of clinical variables included in the SDAI. A purely clinical score is a valid measure of disease activity and will have its greatest merits in clinical practice rather than research, where APRs are usually always available. The CDAI may facilitate immediate and consistent treatment decisions and help to improve patient outcomes in the longer term.
doi:10.1186/ar1740
PMCID: PMC1175030  PMID: 15987481

Results 1-13 (13)