Effectiveness of initial methotrexate-based treatment approaches in early rheumatoid arthritis: an elicitation of rheumatologists’ beliefs.

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To quantify rheumatologists’ beliefs about the effectiveness of triple therapy (MTX + HCQ + SSZ) and other commonly used initial treatments for RA.In a Bayesian belief elicitation exercise, 40 rheumatologists distributed 20 chips, each representing 5% of their total weight of belief on the probability that a typical patient with moderate-severe early RA would have an ACR50 response within 6 months with MTX (oral and s.c.), MTX + HCQ (dual therapy) and triple therapy. Parametric distributions were fit, and used to calculate pairwise median relative risks (RR), with 95% credible intervals, and estimate sample sizes for new trials to shift these beliefs.In the pooled analysis, triple therapy was perceived to be superior to MTX (RR 1.97; 1.35, 2.89) and dual therapy (RR 1.32; 1.03, 1.73). A pessimistic subgroup (n = 10) perceived all treatments to be similar, whereas an optimistic subgroup (n = 10) believed triple therapy to be most effective of all (RR 4.03; 2.22, 10.12). Similar variability was seen for the comparison between oral and s.c. MTX. Assuming triple therapy is truly more effective than MTX, a trial of 100 patients would be required to convince the pessimists; if triple therapy truly has no-modest effect (RR <1.5), a non-inferiority trial of 475 patients would be required to convince the optimists.Rheumatologists’ beliefs regarding the effectiveness of triple therapy vary, which may partially explain the variability in its use. Owing to the strength of beliefs, some may be reluctant to shift, even with new evidence.

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