Objective: To define clinically meaningful changes in 2 widely used health-related quality of life (HQL) instruments in studies of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Patients with RA (n = 693) who were enrolled in 2 double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials completed the Short Form 36 (SF-36) modified health survey and the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) disability index at baseline and 6-week followup assessments. Data on 5 RA severity measures were also collected at baseline and at 6 weeks (patient and physician global assessments, joint swelling and tenderness counts, and global pain assessment). Comparison of changes in the SF-36 scales and HAQ scores was made between groups of patients known to differ in the level of change on each RA severity measure.
Results: With few exceptions, changes in the SF-36 and HAQ scores were different between patients who differed in the level of change on each RA severity measure. Changes in the SF-36 and HAQ scores were more strongly related to changes in the patient and physician global assessments and patient pain assessment than to changes in the joint swelling and tenderness counts.
Conclusion: Based on these results, minimally important changes in the SF-36 scales and HAQ disability scores were determined, which will be useful in interpreting HQL results in clinical trials.