Objective: To document the burden of early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on health-related quality of life (HQL) and compare changes in HQL across 2 treatments.
Study design: Analysis of HQL scores among patients enrolled in a multicenter, double-blind, randomized control trial of early RA treatment.
Patients and methods: A total of 424 patients with early RA were randomized to 1 of 2 treatment groups: etanercept or methotrexate. Patients were treated and followed for 52 weeks. Health-related quality of life was assessed before and throughout treatment using the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36) and the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ). The HQL burden of RA was established by comparing SF-36 scale scores to general US population norms. The impact of treatment on HQL was determined by comparing scores on both SF-36 and HAQ scales.
Results: Before treatment, RA patients showed significant decrements in scores on all SF-36 scales and summary measures in comparison with age- and sex-matched general US population norms, multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) F(8,2815) = 204.6, P < .0001. After 52 weeks of treatment, 7 of 8 SF-36 scales and the physical summary measure remained significantly below the general US population norm, MANOVA F(8,2815) = 41.9, P < .0001. Patients randomized to etanercept showed significantly better HQL improvement earlier in treatment than patients randomized to methotrexate on the SF-36 physical summary, MANOVA F(10,4230) = 6.1, P< .0001, the SF-36 arthritis-specific health index, MANOVA F(10,4230) = 8.5, P < .0001, and the HAQ, MANOVA F(10,4230) = 14.7, P < .0001. At 52 weeks, there were no significant differences between treatment groups.
Conclusions: Rheumatoid arthritis places tremendous disease burden on patients' HQL. Successful treatment of early RA improved HQL. Etanercept showed a rapid HQL response.