Early RA Treatment Reduces Joint Damage Risk

Preliminary research presented Monday at the American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals annual meeting in San Diego, California, suggests that immediate and effective treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) reduces the risk of patients developing joint damage and disability within two years.

According to researchers, these findings highlight the importance of warning patients with early RA about the consequences of delaying effective treatment and following them more frequently in the early stages of treatment.

Researchers used data from the Canadian Early Arthritis Cohort (CATCH), an ongoing multicenter research project that has been collecting information on individuals with early inflammatory arthritis at 19 clinical sites across Canada, for their analysis.

The study included 833 patients with early RA, defined as having symptoms for 1 year or less. The patients were classified as having reached “low disease activity” (meaning that joint pain, swelling, and other markers of inflammation are significantly reduced) or not 6 months after the start of the study.

Adjusting for age; sex; use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (the current standard for initial treatment of RA), steroids, and biologics; and potential confounding factors such as baseline function and disease activity, the investigators analyzed the impact of low disease activity at 6 months on the level of disability at 2 years using the Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index. They also controlled for levels of rheumatoid factor and erythrocyte sedimentation rate.

Researchers found that 56% of participants achieved low disease activity at 6 months, and these individuals were much less likely to have joint damage and disability at 2 years.

–Meredith Edwards

Reference: Timely, Effective Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis Reduces Disability Two Years Out [press release] San Diego, California; Newswire: October 28, 2013 http://www.newswise.com/articles/study-timely-effective-treatment-of-rheumatoid-arthritis-reduces-disability-two-years-out?ret=/articles/list&category=medicine&page=1&search[status]=3&search[sort]=date+desc&search[section]=10&search[has_multimedia]=