Drug-free holiday in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a qualitative study to explore patients' opinion

Clin Rheumatol. 2014 Aug;33(8):1155-9. doi: 10.1007/s10067-014-2500-y. Epub 2014 Jan 28.


Clinical trials have shown that in patients with long-standing low disease activity, tapering and/or stopping antirheumatic medication is a realistic option. The objective of this study is to explore patients' opinion about tapering and discontinuing antirheumatic drugs. This qualitative study is based on interviews with 20 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) about RA treatment and treatment discontinuation through structured interviewing. Interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and screened by three assessors independently for meaning units. Not only positive emotions about drug discontinuation such as hope, happiness, and relief, but also fear and disappointment were mentioned. Some patients expect that drug discontinuation will be possible in other patients and/or themselves, while others do not expect this. The concept of increase in disease activity after discontinuing medication was mentioned, and while patients expect that disease activity will decrease again after restarting medication, they expect that this will take (too much) time. Positive emotions about the option to taper and discontinue antirheumatic medication, with negative expectations is a common combination in these RA patients. In particular, patients expect that disease activity will flare and that improvement upon restarting medication will take time. Patients' expectations and feelings should be addressed before drug tapering is attempted in a clear strategy of continued monitoring of disease activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Remission Induction
  • Withholding Treatment


  • Antirheumatic Agents