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Abstract: Unwillingness of Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients to Risk Adverse Effects

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By L. Fraenkel, S. Bogardus, J. Concato and D. Felson • • April 8, 2002

Objective: To evaluate patient willingness to accept the risk of adverse effects (AEs) commonly associated with arthritis medications.

Methods: Rheumatoid arthritis patients were asked to rate their willingness to take a medication associated with 17 specific AEs using a visual analogue scale.

Results: We interviewed 100 patients. Eighty-one were currently using one or more disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and 29 had previously experienced AEs related to DMARDs. Seventy-five stated that they were doing very well or well with respect to their arthritis compared with other people their age. Thirty-five per cent of those interviewed were unwilling to accept the risk of cosmetic changes, 38% were unwilling to accept the risk of temporary discomfort and 45% were unwilling to accept the risk of major toxicity. Patients who had previously experienced AEs were more willing to accept the risk of cosmetic changes (83 vs 58%, P=0.02), temporary discomfort (79 vs 55%, P=0.02) and major toxicity (83 vs 44%, P=0.001) compared with those who had not previously experienced AEs.

Conclusions: Many rheumatoid arthritis patients are very concerned about potential drug toxicity. However, risk aversity appeared to be attenuated by past experience with AEs. Our results suggest that certain patients, especially those with milder disease activity, might be reluctant to accept commonly used arthritis medications if they are fully informed of their potential toxicity.

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