Objective: To identify the proportion of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in 2 cohorts from Nashville, Tennessee, who met basic criteria for inclusion in 2 important recent clinical trials of anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha (anti-TNFalpha) agents, the early RA (ERA) trial of etanercept versus methotrexate, and the anti-TNFalpha trial in RA with concomitant therapy (ATTRACT) study of infliximab plus methotrexate versus methotrexate.
Methods: Two cohorts of patients, all of whom had met the American College of Rheumatology criteria for RA at some time, were studied. Cohort E (early) comprised 232 patients who were under the care of 5 private practice rheumatologists, whose duration of RA was fewer than 3 years, and who were reviewed for basic inclusion criteria for the ERA clinical trial. Cohort L (long-term) comprised 152 consecutive patients who had been under care at a weekly academic rheumatology clinic for a mean of 4.5 years, and were reviewed for basic inclusion criteria for the ATTRACT study.
Results: In cohort E, basic inclusion criteria for the ERA trial were met by 11 of 36 patients (31%) who had not taken methotrexate, 8 of 19 patients (42%) who were at their first visit and had not taken methotrexate, and 37 of all 232 patients (16%). In cohort L, 5% of patients met the basic inclusion criteria for the ATTRACT study.
Conclusion: Most patients who were seen in routine care in these 2 cohorts did not meet the criteria for inclusion in these 2 important recent clinical trials. The conclusion that anti-TNFalpha therapy has greater efficacy than methotrexate may be valid only in a limited number of patients with the most severe RA. Anti-TNFalpha therapy may be desirable in most patients with RA, but this possibility has not been studied formally. Criteria for inclusion in RA clinical trials might be modified for greater generalizability of results.