Objective: To identify a core set of outcome variables for the assessment of children with juvenile arthritis (JA), to use the core set to develop a definition of improvement to determine whether individual patients demonstrate clinically important improvement, and to promote this definition as a single efficacy measure in JA clinical trials.
Methods: A core set of outcome variables was established using a combination of statistical and consensus formation techniques. Variables in the core set consisted of 1) physician global assessment of disease activity; 2) parent/patient assessment of overall well-being; 3) functional ability; 4) number of joints with active arthritis; 5) number of joints with limited range of motion; and 6) erythrocyte sedimentation rate. To establish a definition of improvement using this core set, 21 pediatric rheumatologists from 14 countries met, and, using consensus formation techniques, scored each of 72 patient profiles as improved or not improved. Using the physicians' consensus as the gold standard, the chi-square, sensitivity, and specificity were calculated for each of 240 possible definitions of improvement. Definitions with sensitivity or specificity of <80% were eliminated. The ability of the remaining definitions to discriminate between the effects of active agent and those of placebo, using actual trial data, was then observed. Each definition was also ranked for face validity, and the sum of the ranks was then multiplied by the kappa statistic.
Results: The definition of improvement with the highest final score was as follows: at least 30% improvement from baseline in 3 of any 6 variables in the core set, with no more than 1 of the remaining variables worsening by >30%. The second highest scoring definition was closely related to the first; the third highest was similar to the Paulus criteria used in adult rheumatoid arthritis trials, except with different variables. This indicates convergent validity of the process used.
Conclusion: We propose a definition of improvement for JA. Use of a uniform definition will help standardize the conduct and reporting of clinical trials, and should help practitioners decide if a child with JA has responded adequately to therapy. We are in the process of prospectively validating this definition and several others that scored highly.