Methods. Data from a multicentre longitudinal study of SLE patients (the BILAG-2004 index and therapy collected at every visit) were used. External responsiveness analysis of the index suggested the possibility of using counts of systems with specified transitions in scores as a basis to analyse the system scores. Exploratory analyses with multinomial logistic regression were used to examine the appropriateness of this new method of analysing BILAG-2004 system scores. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was used to assess the performance of this approach.
Results. There were 1414 observations from 347 patients. A novel method was devised based on counts of systems with defined transitions in score (BILAG-2004 systems tally, BST). It has six components (systems with major deterioration, systems with minor deterioration, systems with persistent significant activity, systems with major improvement, systems with minor improvement and systems with persistent minimal or no activity). This was further simplified (simplified BST, sBST) into three components (systems with active/worsening disease, systems with improving disease and systems with persistent minimal or no activity). Both versions had expected associations with change in therapy. ROC curve analyses demonstrated that both versions had similar good performance characteristics (areas under the curve >0.80) in predicting increase in therapy.
Conclusion. The BST and sBST provide alternative approaches to representing BILAG-2004 disease activity longitudinally. Further validation of their use is required.