ABSTRACT: Aggressive treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) plays a major role in improving early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patient outcomes. Persistence and adherence with medication occurs variably (20% to 70%). The objectives of the study were to determine medication persistence (MP) in early RA patients over 13 consecutive visits each 2 months apart, to investigate the relationship between MP and disease activity, disability and structural damage, and to identify baseline prognosticators.
Charts from 75 patients of an early RA cohort were reviewed. At each visit, a rheumatologist interviewed patients regarding therapy, scored disease activity with the 28-joint disease activity score (DAS28) and disability with the health assessment questionnaire (HAQ), and recorded comorbidities and treatment. A complete medical history was obtained at baseline. MP was defined as the duration of time from initiation to discontinuation of at least one DMARD and/or corticosteroids for at least 1 week and was reported as a dichotomous variable at consecutive evaluations. Structural damage was defined by detection of new erosions on radiography. Descriptive statistics, Student's t test, the chi-squared test, and logistic regression analyses were used.
The proportion of MP patients decreased from 98% at 2 months to 34% at 2 years. MP patients (n = 32) had similar DAS28 to non-MP patients (n = 53) at initial visits, lower DAS28 and greater DAS28 improvements at follow-ups (P < or = 0.05 at visits 4, 6, 7 and 9) and reached sustained remission (> or = 3 consecutive visits with DAS28 < 2.6) more frequently (82.8% versus 46.5%, P = 0.003) and earlier (7.7 +/- 4.6 versus 13.6 +/- 5.7 months, P = 0.001) than non-MP patients. MP patients had similar baseline HAQ scores, but lower HAQ scores at follow-up (P < or = 0.05 at visits 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 13). More non-MP patients developed erosive disease than MP patients (26.8% versus 17.9%, P = 0.56). Older age at baseline was associated with therapy discontinuation (odds ratio = 1.1, 95% confidence interval = 1.007 to 1.103, P = 0.02).
Discontinuation of DMARDs was frequent and progressive in an early RA cohort. Patients with persistence on therapy were younger, had lower disease activity and disability during follow-up, and reached sustained remission more frequently and earlier than patients without it. MP should intentionally be evaluated during follow-up of early RA patients, as it seems to play a major role in outcome.
Arthritis research & therapy 03/2009; 11(1):R26. · 4.27 Impact Factor