Patients with longstanding rheumatoid arthritis, called refractory, who had been treated with tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFis), saw improvements after a year of taking rituximab (Rituxan). That’s according to an analysis from the Corrona RA registry, which was published in Clinical Rheumatology.

“Our results demonstrated that treatment with rituximab can improve health-related quality of life,” says Leslie Harrold, an associate professor at University of Massachusetts Medical School and a senior medical director for pharmacoepidemiology and outcomes research at Corrona.

A year after taking rituximab, the 667 patients in the registry, who failed to see improvement from at least one TNF inhibitor, saw 49 percent improvement in overall patient global assessment, 47.1 percent experienced less pain and, and 49.8 percent was less fatigued. (Of the 667 patients, 57.4 percent had used two or more TNFi before rituximab, and nearly 80 percent are female.)

“This is particularly notable, since the cohort consisted of the harder-to-treat patients, meaning those with long-standing disease with prior use of other biologic agents,” Dr. Harrold says.

The Corrona RA registry, per its site, is the “largest RA real world prospective cohort study in the world,” with more than 40,000 patients enrolled and more than 130,000 patient years tracked.

Data from patient-reported outcomes (PROs) is “incredibly important,” Dr. Harrold says. Since the goal of RA therapy is to reduce inflammation and pain and to improve function, physicians and researchers need to ask patients how they’re doing for them to receive optimal care.

“Collection of PROs is essential in order to ensure we are addressing the needs of the patient,” she says. “I think there is growing interest in patient-reported measures, and more research is emerging in this area.”

The data can also inform patients’ decision making processes. “Patients want to know what to expect for outcomes,” Dr. Harrold says.

The analysis “is among the first to describe patient real-world experience with rituximab treatment one year after initiation,” she and colleagues write in the analysis.

Having “just scratched the surface looking at the impact of disease on patient-reported measures,” Dr. Harrold says future research will focus on understanding how illness and its treatment affect patients’ day-to-day lives. “We should better understand the impact on home life, participation in social activities, and employment,” she says.

A study limitation is that researchers only collected patient-reported outcomes at year one, “so longer-term effects are uncertain,” reports Medpage.

“In this cohort of patients with established disease, it was gratifying to see the improvements that can occur,” Dr. Harrold says.