Review Article


, Volume 21, Issue 13, pp 927-940

First online:

Quality of life in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Which Drugs Might Make a Difference?
  • Barbara BlumenauerAffiliated withOttawa Hospital, University of Ottawa
  • , Ann CranneyAffiliated withOttawa Hospital, University of Ottawa
  • , Jennifer ClinchAffiliated withClinical Epidemiology Unit, University of Ottawa
  • , Peter TugwellAffiliated withOttawa Hospital, University of Ottawa Email author 

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, disabling, inflammatory polyarthritis that affects patient well-being and QOL. Many disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are available for treating RA but patients are often refractory to treatment. The goal of treatment is to improve both general health and health-related QOL. Generic and disease-specific instruments exist to measure QOL. Using these instruments, one can determine if QOL improves with treatment. If the minimal clinically important difference (MCID) for the instrument is known, one can determine if the change is clinically significant.

The literature was reviewed in a systematic manner to determine which drugs could affect QOL in patients with refractory RA. Refractory RA is poorly defined but we used the definition of failing at least two DMARDs. Methotrexate, leflunomide, cyclosporin, glucocorticoids, etanercept and infliximab clinically and statistically significantly improved QOL in patients with RA. Gold and epoetin-α (erythropoietin) statistically improved QOL in patients with RA but the clinical significance of the improvements could not be determined. These studies were either in non-refractory populations or the refractoriness could not be determined. Further study is required to determine the response of QOL to treatment in patients with refractory RA and instruments with known MCIDs should be used so that the clinical significance of the improvement can be determined.