Differences in treat-to-target in patients with rheumatoid arthritis versus hypertension and diabetes--consequences for clinical care.
ABSTRACT "Treat-to-target" of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is similar in many respects to hypertension and diabetes. All three diseases involve a dysregulation of normal physiologic functions, which results in long-term organ damage if not treated. "Treat-to-target" strategies, based on values of specific quantitative measures, lead to improved outcomes, including longer survival. However, RA differs from hypertension and diabetes in at least five important respects: 1. the absence of a single "gold standard" measure in RA for all individual patients necessitates indices; 2. the rarity of acute emergency situations in RA leads to underestimation of its natural history, which includes increased mortality rates similar to hypertension and diabetes; 3. the patient with hypertension or diabetes goes to the doctor to learn how she or he is doing, based on a "gold standard" quantitative measure, while the patient with RA goes to the doctor to tell the doctor how she or he is doing; 4. the history and physical examination in hypertension or diabetes may be recorded as narrative, nonquantitative information, as a vital sign or laboratory test provides the crucial information for clinical care but should be recorded as quantitative, standardized "scientific" data on patient questionnaires and formal joint counts because of their importance in RA; and 5. patient mood or distress may impact directly RA indices used as quantitative measures in a "treat-to-target" strategy, which is not seen in hypertension or diabetes. These matters may be addressed through three global scales completed by health professionals concerning inflammation, damage, or neither inflammation nor damage as a basis for symptoms.