Treatment, rheumatoid arthritis: A case for early arthritis treatment

April 9, 2002

Brussels, 08 April 2002

Recent findings show that delaying treatment for patients with early Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) decreases the ability of traditional single-drug therapy to combat this debilitating disease.

The research, which was conducted over a two-year period by a team of Finnish scientists from the FINRACo Trial Group, analysed the impact on patients when treatment for RA is delayed. At the same time, the study sought to compare the effectiveness of a single-drug treatment versus a combination of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

The results will be published in the April issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology. Of the 178 RA patients tested, 35% showed positive signs of remission following single-drug therapy within less than four months of experiencing symptoms. Among the control group, or those who received delayed treatment, only 11% reported strong relief from the persistent RA symptoms of stiffness, joint tenderness and swelling.

Of the patients treated with the DMARDs cocktail, 42% in both test groups entered remission, demonstrating the consistent effectiveness of combined DMARD-therapy. Patients receiving the DMARDs also showed signs of less joint damage than those receiving the single-drug treatment.

Is there a rheumatologist in the house?

'The prerequisite for starting therapy early is getting patients rapid specialist care,' says Dr Timo Möttönen, the project's chief researcher and head of the Rheumatology Division at Turku University Central Hospital in Finland. He believes that improving postgraduate education for general practitioners will help in the diagnosis and early treatment of RA. Dr. Theodore Pincus, Vanderbilt University, echoes this view, 'A primary reason for delays in providing rheumatological care is a shortage of rheumatologists - certainly compared with the prevalence of rheumatic diseases.'

More information.
John Wiley & Sons
Contact: jgibson@wiley.co.uk

Source: Research DG http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/research/ index_en.html

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