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Revisiting the use of remission criteria for rheumatoid arthritis by excluding patient global assessment: an individual meta-analysis of 5792 patients


Objectives To determine the impact of excluding patient global assessment (PGA) from the American College of Rheumatology (ACR)/European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) Boolean remission criteria, on prediction of radiographic and functional outcome of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods Meta-analyses using individual patient data from randomised controlled trials testing the efficacy of biological agents on radiographic and functional outcomes at ≥2 years. Remission states were defined by 4 variants of the ACR/EULAR Boolean definition: (i) tender and swollen 28-joint counts (TJC28/SJC28), C reactive protein (CRP, mg/dL) and PGA (0–10=worst) all ≤1 (4V-remission); (ii) the same, except PGA >1 (4V-near-remission); (iii) 3V-remission (i and ii combined; similar to 4V, but without PGA); (iv) non-remission (TJC28 >1 and/or SJC28 >1 and/or CRP >1). The most stringent class achieved at 6 or 12 months was considered. Good radiographic (GRO) and functional outcome (GFO) were defined as no worsening (ie, change in modified total Sharp score (ΔmTSS) ≤0.5 units and ≤0.0 Health Assessment Questionnaire–Disability Index points, respectively, during the second year). The pooled probabilities of GRO and GFO for the different definitions of remission were estimated and compared.

Results Individual patient data (n=5792) from 11 trials were analysed. 4V-remission was achieved by 23% of patients and 4V-near-remission by 19%. The probability of GRO in the 4V-near-remission group was numerically, but non-significantly, lower than that in the 4V-remission (78 vs 81%) and significantly higher than that for non-remission (72%; difference=6%, 95% CI 2% to 10%). Applying 3V-remission could have prevented therapy escalation in 19% of all participants, at the cost of an additional 6.1%, 4.0% and 0.7% of patients having ΔmTSS >0.0, >0.5 and >5 units over 2 years, respectively. The probability of GFO (assessed in 8 trials) in 4V-near-remission (67%, 95% CI 63% to 71%) was significantly lower than in 4V-remission (78%, 74% to 81%) and similar to non-remission (69%, 66% to 72%).

Conclusion 4V-near-remission and 3V-remission have similar validity as the original 4V-remission definition in predicting GRO, despite expected worse prediction of GFO, while potentially reducing the risk of overtreatment. This supports further exploration of 3V-remission as the target for immunosuppressive therapy complemented by patient-oriented targets.

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • patient perspective
  • outcomes research
  • inflammation
  • disease activity

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