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Abstract

Objective

To assess the efficacy of leflunomide or methotrexate compared with placebo in improving function and health-related quality of life in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to examine correlations between response status (as defined by the American College of Rheumatology [ACR] response criteria) and improvement in these measures.

Methods

This 52-week, multicenter, double-blind, controlled trial compared responses to the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), modified Health Assessment Questionnaire (MHAQ), Problem Elicitation Technique (PET), Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 (SF-36), and questions regarding work productivity among 3 treatment groups (leflunomide, methotrexate, and placebo). Improvement in the PET top 5 and SF-36 scales and component scores were compared with ACR response rates.

Results

Clinically meaningful and statistically significant (P < 0.0001) improvement in measures of function and heath-related quality of life (MHAQ scores, all scales and disability index of the HAQ, weighted top 5 score of the PET, 5 of 8 scales and physical component score of the SF-36, and work productivity) was seen during treatment with leflunomide in comparison with placebo. Methotrexate administration resulted in significant improvements (P < 0.05) in comparison with placebo in the MHAQ scores, HAQ disability index, weighted top 5 score of the PET, physical component score of the SF-36, and bodily pain scale. Compared with methotrexate, leflunomide administration resulted in significantly (P < 0.01) more improvement in the MHAQ scores, 5 of 8 scales and disability index of the HAQ, weighted top 5 score of the PET, and 2 of 8 scales and physical component score of the SF-36. Improvements in the PET score, SF-36 physical component score, and work productivity correlated with the ACR responder rates of ≥20% and ≥50% improvement.

Conclusion

Significant improvements in function and health-related quality of life occurred in patients with RA during treatment with leflunomide or methotrexate. These findings were clinically meaningful and correlated with the ACR response status.