Patients receiving anti-TNF therapies experience clinically important improvements in RA-related fatigue: results from the British Society of Rheumatology Biologics Register for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Katie L. Druce, Gareth T Jones, Gary J Macfarlane, Neil Basu

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OBJECTIVES: Pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α are important in the pathogenesis of fatigue in conditions such as RA. This study aimed to determine whether fatigue improved in a cohort of RA patients with clinically relevant fatigue commencing anti-TNF-α therapy and, if so, to identify predictors of improvement.

METHODS: Participants recruited to a long-term observational cohort study (the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register for RA) provided information on fatigue using the 36-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) vitality subscale. The prevalence of severe baseline fatigue (SF-36 vitality ≤12.5) was calculated and improvements, considered as (i) absolute values and (ii) improvement from severe to non-severe fatigue (SF-36 vitality >12.5), were examined 6 months subsequently. A comprehensive set of putative predictors of fatigue improvement were evaluated using multivariable logistic regression.

RESULTS: In 6835 participants the prevalence of severe baseline fatigue was 38.8%. Of those with severe fatigue, 70% reported clinically relevant improvement and 66% moved to the non-severe fatigue category (i.e. improvers). The mean change for improvers was three times the minimum clinically important difference for improvement (33.0 U). Independent baseline predictors of improvement were female sex [odds ratio (OR) 1.3 (95% CI 1.1, 1.7)], not being unemployed due to ill health [OR 1.5 (95% CI 1.2, 1.7)], low disability [OR 1.2 (95% CI 1.001, 1.5)], seropositivity [OR 1.2 (95% CI 0.98, 1.4)], not using steroids [OR 1.2 (95% CI 1.03, 1.5)], no history of hypertension [OR 1.4 (95% CI 1.1, 1.6)] or depression [OR 1.3 (95% CI 1.1, 1.5)] and good mental health [SF-36 mental health subscale >35; OR 1.4 (95% CI 1.2, 1.7)].

CONCLUSION: Fatigued RA patients reported substantial improvement in their fatigue after commencing anti-TNF-α therapy. Further, a number of clinical and psychosocial baseline factors identified those most likely to improve, supporting future stratified approaches to RA fatigue management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)964-971
Number of pages8
Issue number6
Early online date13 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015



  • fatigue
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • anti-TNF

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