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Early Treatment Benefits Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

An article published in Arthritis & Rheumatology observed mortality rates, disease activity, and physical function of patients with rheumatoid arthritis over a 20-year period.


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease which involves joint inflammation and progressive joint destruction. Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) and steroids are proven to be effective in the management of RA. However, there are few studies have explored the long-term outcomes and benefits associated with the use of these drugs.

In an article published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, a group of researchers conducted a study to investigate whether early initiation of DMARDs and steroids improve physical function and reduce mortality among patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. A total of 602 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis were recruited between 1990 and 1994. All participants were at least 16 years of age, and initially presented with a minimum of 2 swollen joints for a period of at least 4 weeks.  Patients were grouped depending on the time of initiation of treatment: early treatment, medications initiated within 6 months after onset of initial symptoms; late treatment, medications initiated 6 months after onset of symptoms; or never treated. Disease activity, mortality, and physical function were assessed during initial visit and after 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years. Physical function was measured every visit using a health assessment questionnaire. For measurement of disease activity, blood samples were taken every 5 years to determine the serum levels of the following: C- reactive protein (CRP), Rheumatoid factor (RF), and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies (Anti-CCP).

The results show that patients who were treated with DMARDs and steroids had a lower mortality risk compared to those who did not receive any treatment. Patients who received early treatment had similar physical function over follow-up to those who did not receive any treatment, while late initiation of treatment was associated with lower physical function.

Overall, the results show the benefits of DMARDs and steroids in the management of rheumatoid arthritis and highlight the importance of initiating early treatment for improving long-term outcomes.


Written By: Karla Sevilla



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