The purpose of this study was to understand the perspectives of patients and rheumatologists for tapering DMARDs in rheumatoid arthritis.



To understand the perspectives of patients and rheumatologists for tapering DMARDs in RA.


Using semi-structured interview guides, we conducted individual interviews and focus groups with RA patients and rheumatologists, which were audiotaped and transcribed. We conducted a pragmatic thematic analysis to identify major themes, comparing and contrasting different views on DMARD tapering between patients and rheumatologists.


We recruited 28 adult patients with RA (64% women; disease duration 1–54 y) and 23 rheumatologists (52% women). Attitudes across both groups towards tapering DMARDs were ambivalent, ranging from wary to enthusiastic. Both groups expressed concerns, particularly the inability to ‘recapture’ the same level of disease control, while also acknowledging potential positive outcomes such as reduced drug harms. Patient tapering perspectives (whether to and when) changed over time and commonly included non-biologic DMARDs. Patient preferences were influenced by lived experiences, side effects, previous tapering experiences, disease trajectory, remission duration and current life roles. Rheumatologists’ perspectives varied on timing and patient profile to initiate tapering, and were informed by both data and clinical experience. Patients expressed interest in shared decision-making (SDM) and close monitoring during tapering, with ready access to their health-care team if problems arose. Rheumatologists were generally open to tapering (not stopping), though sometimes only when requested by their patients.


The perspectives of patients and rheumatologists on tapering DMARDs in RA vary and evolve over time. Rheumatologists should periodically discuss DMARD tapering with patients as part of SDM, and ensure monitoring and flare management plans are in place.

Hazlewood, G. S., Loyola-Sanchez, A., Bykerk, V., Hull, P. M., Marshall, D., Pham, T., … & Bartlett, S. J. (2021). Patient and rheumatologist perspectives on tapering DMARDs in rheumatoid arthritis: a qualitative study. Rheumatology.

Doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keab330