OBJECTIVE: Treating early, intensively, and to target leads to rapid disease control, preventing joint damage and loss of function in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We report the effect of such an approach on patient-reported outcomes and explore the contribution of rapid and persistent disease control to well-being after 1 year of treatment.
METHODS: This study is part of the Care in Early RA trial, a prospective, 2-year, investigator-initiated, randomized controlled trial rooted in daily practice and implementing the treat-to-target principle. Short Form 36 (SF-36) health survey and Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ-R) data were collected prospectively. We defined 4 clinical response profiles based on speed and consistency of the treatment response within the first year, defined as the Disease Activity Score in 28 joints using the C-reactive protein level <2.6. Linear regression analyses including these response profiles and treatment type were constructed to predict the SF-36 dimensions of vitality, social functioning, role emotional, and mental health, and the IPQ-R illness perception subscales of consequences, treatment control, and illness coherence at year 1.
RESULTS: A total of 333 patients were available for the main analyses, including 140 early persistent responders. Variation in each of the psychosocial outcomes at year 1 was explained mostly by baseline values, followed by the clinical response profiles. Patients with an early persistent response reported significantly higher vitality, more positive beliefs about disease consequences and treatment effect. Treatment type did not matter.
CONCLUSION: Rapid and persistent disease control and not treatment type were associated with favorable patient-reported health and illness perceptions at year 1, but baseline psychosocial variables mattered most. Our data indicate opportunities to broaden the scope of the treat-to-target principle in early RA.