How do physicians weigh benefits and risks associated with treatments in patients with osteoarthritis in the United Kingdom?

J Rheumatol. 2012 May;39(5):1056-63. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.111066. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Objective: To quantify the relative importance that UK physicians attach to the benefits and risks of current drugs when making treatment decisions for patients with osteoarthritis (OA).

Methods: Physicians treating at least 10 patients with OA per month completed an online discrete-choice experiment survey and answered 12 treatment-choice questions comparing medication profiles. Medication profiles were defined by 4 benefits (reduction in ambulatory pain, resting pain, stiffness, and difficulty doing daily activities) and 3 treatment-related risks [bleeding ulcer, stroke, and myocardial infarction (MI)]. Each physician made medication choices for 3 of 9 hypothetical patients (varied by age, history of MI, hypertension, and history of gastrointestinal bleeding). Importance weights were estimated using a random-parameters logit model. Treatment-related risks physicians were willing to accept in exchange for various reductions in ambulatory and resting pain also were calculated.

Results: The final sample was 475. A reduction in ambulatory pain from 75 mm to 25 mm (1.6 units) was 1.1 times as important as an increase in MI risk from 0% to 1.5% (1.5 units). The greatest importance was for eliminating a 3% treatment-related risk of MI or stroke. On average, physicians were willing to accept an increase in bleeding ulcer risk of 0.7% (95% CI 0.4%-1.7%) for a reduction in ambulatory pain of 75 mm to 50 mm.

Conclusion: When presented with well-known benefits and risks of OA treatments, physicians placed greater importance on the risks than on the analgesic properties of the drug. This has implications for the reporting of the results of clinical research to physicians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antirheumatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys* / standards
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology*
  • Physicians* / psychology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'* / standards
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Antirheumatic Agents