Patients Gauge Their Treatment

Published Online: Thursday, May 1, 2003

Here is a twist: doctors simply asking patients if their arthritis medication is working. A study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism (March 2003) compared the effectiveness of a simple patient questionnaire with that of a battery of clinical observations and tests?the ACR20 criteria established by the American College of Rheumatology for clinical trials of a drug.

The criteria involve 7 sets of measures that include clinical observations of a patient?s condition, including joint size and degree of swelling. The ACR20 is complicated, costly, and time-consuming, and doctors believe that in many respects it serves little purpose in a clinical setting. The solution may be a 1-page questionnaire filled out by rheumatoid arthritis patients while they wait in their doctor?s office. The questions, which are adapted from the ACR20, focus on specific signs that predict how well a drug is working, including a patient?s overall well-being, pain level, and quality of life. Researchers concluded that the questionnaire was just as accurate as the ACR20 in predicting the effectiveness of the medications, and it was equally effective at identifying quality-of-life issues affected by the disease and aided by medications.

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