Objective: To determine treatment preferences among patients with recent onset rheumatoid arthritis participating in a randomised controlled trial comparing four therapeutic strategies.
Methods: A questionnaire was sent to all 508 participants of the BeSt trial, treated for an average of 2.2 years with either sequential monotherapy (group 1), step-up combination therapy (group 2), initial combination therapy with tapered high-dose prednisone (group 3), or initial combination therapy with infliximab (group 4). Treatment adjustments were made every 3 months to achieve low disease activity (DAS ⩽2.4). The questionnaire explored patients’ preferences or dislikes for the initial therapy.
Results: In total, 440 patients (87%) completed the questionnaire. Despite virtually equal study outcomes at 2 years, more patients in group 4 reported much or very much improvement of general health: 50%, 56%, 46% and 74% in groups 1–4, respectively (overall, P<0.001). Almost half of the patients expressed no preference or aversion for a particular treatment group, 33% had hoped for assignment to group 4 and 38% had hoped against assignment to group 3. This negative perception was much less prominent in patients actually in group 3. Nevertheless, 50% of patients in group 3 disliked having to take prednisone, while only 8% in group 4 disliked going to the hospital for intravenous treatment.
Conclusions: Within the limitations of our retrospective study, patients clearly preferred initial combination therapy with infliximab and disliked taking prednisone. After actual exposure, this preference remained, but the perception of prednisone improved. Patient perceptions need to be addressed when administering treatment.
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Published Online First 3 April 2007
Competing interests: CFA has received a fee for speaking at a conference by Schering-Plough, the manufacturer of infliximab; FCB has received lecture fees from Schering-Plough; BAD has received funds for research and lecture fees from Schering-Plough.