Background: The causes of the underutilization of disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS) for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are not fully known, but may in part, relate to individual patient factors including risk perception. Our objective was to identify the determinants of risk perception (RP) in RA patients and predictors of their willingness to take a proposed DMARD (DMARD willingness).
Methods: A cross-sectional mail survey of RA patients in a community rheumatology practice. Patients were presented a hypothetical decision scenario where they were asked to consider switching DMARDs. They evaluated how risky the proposed medication was and how likely they would be to take it.
Results: The completed sample included 1009 RA patients. The overall survey response rate was 71%.
Patient characteristics: age 61.6 years (range 18-93), 75% female, minority 6.5%, low or marginal health literacy 8.8%, depression 15.0%, duration RA 13.1 years (range 0.5 - 68). Regression models demonstrated that health literacy, independent of low educational achievement or other demographic (including race), was a common predictor of both RP and DMARD willingness. There was partial mediation of the effects of HL on DMARD willingness through RP. Depression and happiness had no significant effect on RP or DMARD willingness. RP was influenced by negative RA disease and treatment experience, while DMARD willingness was affected mainly by perceived disease control.
Conclusions: Risk aversion may be the result of potentially recognizable and correctable cognitive defect. Heightened clinician awareness, formal screening for low health literacy or cognitive impairment in high-risk populations, may identify patients could benefit from additional decision support.