MIAMI – Reaching a consensus on measurement and assessment of flare in psoriatic arthritis remains challenging, especially with no widely accepted definition and differing opinions among patients and physicians. But getting standard evaluation of flare under control is critical for both clinical and research outcomes.
Through a series of patient interviews, physician surveys, and lessons learned in rheumatoid arthritis, the GRAPPA Flare Project is close to a validated flare instrument. A 10-question flare assessment tool is now in the final validation stage, according to a presentation at the annual meeting of the Group for Research and Assessment of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis.
“Flare is a clearly personal experience and varies from patient to patient. It’s clear that physicians and patients have clearly different ideas of what flare is. Bringing those two worlds together was a challenge,” Philip Helliwell, MD, of Leeds (England) University and GRAPPA president, said at the meeting.
“Some societies – I’m not going to mention any names – have gone down the route of a definition of flare linked to disease activity measures. We have not done this,” Dr. Helliwell said.
Instead, the Flare Project is taking a patient-driven and physician-reviewed approach. Investigators cast a wide net, identifying 79 factors important to patients in six major domains: skin, joint, emotional, participation, fatigue, and unclassified. The results were published in 2015 (Rheumatology [Oxford]. 2015 Aug;54:1448-53). Through a Delphi survey, physicians reviewed these considerations. Then GRAPPA identified items important to both patients and physicians and developed a preliminary flare instrument.
Unlike most assessment tools for psoriatic disease, the new instrument includes patient-reported emotional well-being. Niti Goel, MD, of Duke University, Durham, N.C., said that physicians do not always ask patients about the psychological impact of their disease, so the tool “could provide additional information.”
Another goal of the project is to provide standard answers to some of the common questions related to psoriatic arthritis, including: What exactly is a flare? Does the definition truly capture the worsening of disease? Are there different types of flares? Is flare different if you start from a point of high disease activity? What self-management and other interventions are effective for flare?
GRAPPA adopted a definition of flare developed from rheumatoid arthritis, stating that flare is any worsening of disease activity that would, if persistent, in most cases lead to initiation or change of therapy (J Rheumatol. 2009 Oct;36:2335-41).
“It took [them] some time to get to that definition,” Dr. Helliwell said. “We know from rheumatoid arthritis that there is a lot more to a flare than joint swelling and pain.”
The GRAPPA flare tool is now in the validation stage, Dr. Helliwell said, and will be tested in several studies, including a prospective multicenter study where the 10-item questionnaire will be administered to patients.
A meeting attendee commented that the patient and physician global scales are sufficient and asked: “Is there really a need for a flare instrument?”
“I accept what you are saying, but I would also retort that knowledge is power, and the more information we get, the more we know about what we are doing,” Dr. Helliwell said. “We are going to collect all our information – physician global, patient global, composite disease measures – everything within that study.”
Dr. Helliwell and Dr. Goel reported having no relevant financial disclosures.