Objective: In an additive cohort of patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA), to determine the effect of substituting one acute phase reactant for another on the number of patients satisfying the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 20% preliminary criteria for improvement, and on calculated Disease Activity Scores (DAS).
Methods: A total of 251 patients with 6.4 months average disease duration had detailed clinical assessments at entry and 6, 12, and 24 months in a multicenter prospective longterm observational study. Matched erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP), and plasma viscosity (PV) assays were done at 366 time points. Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs were not started until after the baseline evaluation.
Results: After 6, 12, and 24 months, 50%, 53%, and 57% of patients were responders, as defined by the ACR 20% improvement criteria. The difference in response rates when ESR, CRP, or PV was used as the acute phase reactant ranged from 0.4% at 12 months to 3% at 24 months. Percentile distributions of the 366 matched CRP, ESR, and PV values were used to prepare a nomogram that can be used to calculate the other acute phase reactant values if the value of one is known. When the nomogram was used to impute ESR values from observed PV or CRP values, average DAS scores calculated with the actual ESR values were not different from average DAS scores calculated from the imputed ESR values.
Conclusion: ESR, CRP, and PV are equally useful in calculating ACR 20% response rates in patients with active early RA. A nomogram can be used to impute ESR values from CRP or PV values; use of the imputed ESR values is as accurate as use of the actual ESR values to calculate average DAS.