Informing future preference research for Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) requires long-term treatment to prevent and control disease progression. There is an increasing interest in identifying and treating ‘at risk’ individuals in order to delay or even prevent the onset of RA. But the treatment (preventive and otherwise) comes with potential side-effects. Understanding what patients and individuals at risk of RA prefer can help facilitate patient centred healthcare strategies and shared decision-making. PREFER researchers just published a systematic review to inform future preference studies in RA. 

Rheumatoid arthritis is a common chronic inflammatory disease that affects around 1% of the population. It is 2-3 times more common in women. In most cases, patients begin having symptoms between 40 to 60 years of age, but it can begin earlier, or later in life. RA affects the joints and causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and fatigue. If patients are not treated, the joints can become permanently damaged, which subsequently can lead to disability. There is currently no cure, which means that for the vast majority of patients, treatments are long term, with the aim to control the inflammatory disease activity and reduce symptoms. Increasingly, the focus is on prevention of RA and trials of short term treatment to prevent RA development are ongoing. In parallel, a few studies have started to explore the treatment preferences of individuals at risk of RA.

Treatment preference studies need to focus on the treatment characteristics that are most important to patients and people who are at risk. To assess this, the authors of a recent Arthritis Research & Therapy article set out to review existing studies of preferences for drugs to treat or prevent RA. The treatment characteristics that were included most often were drug efficacy, safety, and mode of administration. But there is more to learn about the preferences of people who are at-risk or in the early stages of the disease.

“Despite the current research focus on prevention and very early intervention, most previous preference studies have focused on treating the disease once it is well established. There is a knowledge gap to fill in the context of preventative treatment. Individuals at risk of RA may make different benefit-risk trade-offs between treatment options than patients with longstanding RA” says Gwenda Simons, one of the authors.

By Anna Holm

Explore PREFER publications

Simons G, Caplan J, DiSantostefano RL, et al. Systematic review of quantitative preference studies of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis among patients and at-risk populations. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 2022:24;55. DOI: 10.1186/s13075-021-02707-4

Last modified: 2021-11-10