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OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect of treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and/or steroids on 5-year disability outcome in patients with inflammatory polyarthritis. METHODS: Three hundred eighty-four patients registered by the Norfolk Arthritis Register (a primary care-based observational cohort) were followed up for 5 years. Treatment details and Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) scores were recorded annually. Logistic regression was used to model differences in baseline factors associated with the start of DMARDs and/or steroids within 12 months of baseline. Based on this model, each subject was given a probability of starting treatment ("propensity score"). A second model compared the odds of disability (HAQ score > or =1.00) in treated and untreated patients, adjusting for differences in disease severity using the propensity score. RESULTS: Unadjusted analysis suggested that patients who received treatment had an increased odds of a worse outcome compared with those who did not receive treatment. When adjusted for differences in disease severity, using the propensity score, early treatment (within 6 months of symptom onset) was associated with a similar odds of disability at 5 years compared with those not treated (odds ratio 0.71; 95% confidence interval 0.34, 1.44). In contrast, starting treatment later (> or =6 months) was associated with a 2-fold increased odds of having a HAQ score > or =1.00 at 5 years. CONCLUSION: The propensity score was a useful method of adjusting for "confounding by indication" in observational studies. Furthermore, this study showed that early treatment with DMARDs/steroids (within 6 months of symptom onset) reduced the odds of disability 5 years later to a level comparable with that of patients judged clinically as not requiring treatment.

Original publication

DOI

10.1002/1529-0131(200105)44:5<1033::aid-anr182>3.0.co;2-g

Type

Journal article

Journal

Arthritis and rheumatism

Publication Date

05/2001

Volume

44

Pages

1033 - 1042

Addresses

University of Manchester, UK.

Keywords

Humans, Arthritis, Phenylketonurias, Antirheumatic Agents, Disability Evaluation, Treatment Outcome, Health Status Indicators, Registries, Logistic Models, Prospective Studies, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, Patient Dropouts, Female, Male