Patient preferences for treatments to prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis (or RA for short) is a chronic disease that affects the joints and causes pain, stiffness and swelling. There are a number of ongoing clinical trials of treatments to prevent the development of RA. A survey of over 2,900 people just published in the journal Rheumatology provides evidence that most people would be willing to accept at least some side effects in return for an effective preventive treatment.

Access to information about patient preferences can help pharmaceutical companies decide what drugs to develop, how to design clinical trials, and how to develop informational resources for people at risk of developing RA to support shared decision-making. But there are very few quantitative studies that have assessed preferences for benefits and risks of treatments that reduce someone’s chance of developing RA.

PREFER researchers set out to discover what trade-offs people make when considering the benefits and risks of preventative treatment for RA by surveying nearly 3000 people in the UK, Germany, and Romania. The study, designed by an international team of clinical and methodological experts, has provided a much needed assessment of people’s preferences.

“Recruiting people at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis to clinical trials testing preventive treatment has been difficult. Our results provide insights into the likely uptake of preventive treatments for RA, based on the relative importance people place on different attributes of a drug, such as how it is administered, how effective it is in reducing someones risk of developing RA, and potential side effects,” says Gwenda Simons, a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, UK, and first author.

According to the authors, over 90% of respondents chose a preventive treatment over no treatment, and people were willing to accept some types of side effects. For example, on average people would accept a 19% risk of getting a serious infection, like pneumonia, in exchange for a treatment that would reduce their chances of getting RA from 60% to 40%.

“We also found that subgroups with different preferences were associated with respondents’ perceived risk of developing RA, health literacy and numeracy, and which country they were in. For example, respondents in Romania were less tolerant of treatment side-effects than those in the UK and Germany,” says Marie Falahee, the senior author and a principle investigator in the Rheumatology Research Group, University of Birmingham.

Read the paper: Gwenda Simons, Jorien Veldwijk, Rachael L Disantostefano, Matthias Englbrecht, Christine Radawski, Karin Schölin Bywall, Larissa Valor Méndez, Brett Hauber, Karim Raza, Marie Falahee, Preferences for preventive treatments for rheumatoid arthritis: discrete choice survey in the UK, Germany and RomaniaRheumatology, 2022;, keac397,

By Anna Holm & Josepine Fernow

Read about the study

Last modified: 2021-11-10