Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Original article
Predicting achievement of the treatment targets at 6 months from 3-month response levels in rheumatoid arthritis: data from real-life follow-up in the NOR-DMARD study
  1. Vibeke Norvang1,2,
  2. Joseph Sexton1,
  3. Eirik K Kristianslund1,
  4. Inge C Olsen1,
  5. Till Uhlig1,3,
  6. Gunnstein Bakland4,
  7. Frode Krøll5,
  8. Erik Rødevand6,
  9. Ada Wierød7,
  10. Tore K Kvien1,3,
  11. Josef S Smolen8,
  12. Daniel Aletaha8 and
  13. Espen A Haavardsholm1,2
  1. 1 Department of Rheumatology, Diakonhjemmet Hospital, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2 Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  3. 3 Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  4. 4 Department of Rheumatology, University Hospital of Northern Norway, Tromsø, Norway
  5. 5 Lillehammer Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Lillehammer, Norway
  6. 6 Department of Rheumatology, St. Olavs Hospital, Trondheim, Norway
  7. 7 Department of Rheumatology, Vestre Viken/Drammen Hospital, Drammen, Norway
  8. 8 Division of Rheumatology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  1. Correspondence to Dr Vibeke Norvang; v.norvang{at}


Objective When initiating a new therapy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), current treatment recommendations suggest escalating therapy in case of poor clinical improvement by 3 months or if the treatment target has not been reached by 6 months. We investigated which disease activity improvement levels at 3 months predicted achievement of the treatment targets at 6 months in a real-life clinical setting.

Methods We included 1610 patients with RA enrolled in the NOR-DMARD study between 2000 and 2012. Analyses were performed for the total group of patients and repeated for subgroups stratified by baseline disease activity, disease duration or treatment with methotrexate or a tumour necrosis factor inhibitor. We used a diagnostic test approach to explore the associations between 3-month response and 6-month outcome.

Results Not achieving 50% improvement in Simplified Disease Activity Index (SDAI) by 3 months significantly decreased the likelihood of reaching remission at 6 months in all subgroups (negative likelihood ratios (LRs−) 0.15–0.36). Patients with high disease activity when initiating treatment were likely to fail reaching remission if they achieved less than SDAI 70% response by 3 months (LR− 0.25 and negative predictive value 0.98). Achieving a major response (SDAI 85%) at 3 months significantly increased the likelihood of reaching remission at 6 months (LRs+ 6.56).

Conclusion Levels of 3-month disease activity improvement can inform clinicians when deciding to continue or adjust ongoing therapy in a treat-to-target strategy aiming for remission or low disease activity within 6 months. The required levels of 3-month improvement varied with baseline disease activity.

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • disease activity
  • outcomes research
  • treatment

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Contributors Study design: VN, JS, ICO, TKK, JSS, DA and EAH. Data acquisition: GB, FK, ER, AW and TKK. Data analyses: VN, JS and ICO. Manuscript preparation: VN, JS, ICO, EKK, TU, TKK, JSS, DA and EAH. All authors critically revised the manuscript and approved the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: ICO has received personal fees from Pfizer; TU has received personal fees from Biogen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen, MSD, Novartis and Roche; GB has received personal fees from AbbVie, Pfizer and UCB; TKK has received fees for speaking and/or consulting from AbbVie, Biogen, BMS, Boehringer Ingelheim, Celgene, Celltrion, Eli Lilly, Epirus, Merck-Serono MSD, Mundipharma, Novartis, Oktal, Orion Pharma, Hospira/Pfizer, Roche, Sandoz and UCB; JSS has received grants, expert advice and/or speaking engagements from AbbVie, Amgen, Astra-Zeneca, BMS, Celltrion, Eli Lilly, Gilead, Janssen, MSD, Novartis-Sandoz, Pfizer, Roche, Samsung and UCB; DA has received fees for speaking and/or consulting from AbbVie, BMS, Eli Lilly, Janssen, MSD, Pfizer, Roche and UCB; EAH has received grants from AbbVie, MSD, Pfizer and UCB and personal fees from Celgene, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Roche and UCB; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics, South-Eastern Norway.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.