Objectives: During the last decades major advances have occurred in the treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and improvements in the burden of the disease have been suggested. We examined whether there was a secular change towards less severe disease from 1994 to 2004 among patients within the representative setting of the Oslo Rheumatoid Arthritis Register (ORAR).
Methods: All living patients in the ORAR received a postal questionnaire in 1994, 1996, 2001 and 2004, including the Modified Health Assessment Questionnaire (MHAQ), SF-36, Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales 2 (AIMS2) and visual analogue scales for the patient global assessment of disease severity, pain and fatigue. A mixed model approach was used for longitudinal analysis adjusting for sex, age, co-morbidity, and for disease duration and DMARD if indicated.
Results: The numbers of respondents aged between 20 and 79 years in 1994, 1996, 2001 and 2004 were 931, 1025, 829 and 914 patients with similar demographic characteristics (mean age in 1994 was 60.6 years, mean disease duration 12.6 years, 78% females). Health status in the population with RA was consistently improved in all dimensions of health, and this improvement was statistically significant for the physical dimension, global health and pain over the 10-year period until 2004. Both year of examination and year of disease onset had an effect on measures of longitudinal health status outcome.
Conclusions: Health status in RA improved from 1994 to 2004, probably due to access to better and more aggressive threatments.
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Competing interests: Hans Bijlsma was the Handling Editor for this article.