Objective: To explore the association between achieving favorable clinical outcomes and patients’ perceived change in overall health status after 12 months of treat-to-target in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to identify determinants of subjective nonimprovement.
Methods: Baseline and 12-month data of patients included in the Dutch Rheumatoid Arthritis Monitoring remission induction cohort study with at least a moderate response (by European League Against Rheumatism criteria) after 1 year were selected for analysis. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with nonimproved perceived overall health status at 12 months.
Results: At 12 months, 75 of 210 patients (35%) did not consider their health to have improved despite having achieved favorable clinical outcomes. Relative change from baseline in pain (Wald = 20.20; P < 0.01) and fatigue (Wald = 5.58; P = 0.02) was independently associated with nonimproved perceived overall health status. The results were similar when only patients with ≤1 swollen joint were analyzed. An improvement of 55% in pain measured on a visual analog scale was found to discriminate reasonably well between patients who considered their health to have improved versus patients who did not, with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.70 (95% confidence interval 0.61–0.78).
Conclusion: These results demonstrate that clinical improvements do not equate with improved subjective health for all patients. The association of nonimprovement with changes in pain and fatigue suggest that it might be worthwhile to monitor and address pain and fatigue in addition to and independently of disease activity in early RA.