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Preferences of Patients and At-risk Individuals for Preventive Approaches to Rheumatoid Arthritis


Falahee M1, Finckh A2, Raza K3, Harrison M4. Clin Ther. 2019 Jul;41(7):1346-1354. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2019.04.015. Epub 2019 Jun 10.

Author Information

1 Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom. Electronic address: m.falahee@bham.ac.uk.

2 Department of Rheumatology, Geneva University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland.

3 Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom; Department of Rheumatology, Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Birmingham, United Kingdom; Arthritis Research UK Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence, MRC Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

4 Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.


Effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are available and can lead to remission for some patients, but most patients remain on potentially toxic and expensive medications in the long term. Interest is increasingly turning to the disease phases preceding the development of RA that represent opportunities for preventive interventions. At-risk target populations include individuals with genetic and environmental risk factors, those who have developed systemic autoimmunity, and those who have developed clinically suspect symptoms (eg, arthralgias without synovitis, or an early arthritis). Ongoing prospective studies will inform the development of increasingly accurate predictive tools to identify individuals at risk of developing RA. Furthermore, a range of preventive approaches has been suggested, including lifestyle modification (eg, smoking cessation) and pharmacologic interventions (eg, hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate, abatacept, rituximab) that are currently the subject of randomized controlled trials. As prediction and prevention of RA evolve, it is increasingly likely that individuals at risk (including asymptomatic individuals) may be faced with complex decisions about whether to accept assessment of their risk status or to take a preventive intervention associated with risk of serious adverse events and uncertain benefit. Acceptance of preventive medication in other contexts can be low. For example, <25% of women at high risk of breast cancer are willing to take preventive hormonal treatments. Actual uptake is lower still. Patients' beliefs and preferences predict treatment uptake and adherence. Before the dream of preventing RA can become reality, health care providers need to understand the perspectives of individuals in the target population and to identify barriers and facilitators for this approach. This commentary reviews what is currently known about the perspectives of patients and individuals at risk about predictive and preventive approaches for RA and identifies gaps to be addressed to inform the development of efficient preventive strategies.