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Aggressive Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis Pays Off

Early combo of anti-rheumatic drugs gives long-term benefits to patients

TUESDAY, July 6, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Early, aggressive treatment with a combination of anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) appears to offer long-term benefits to people with rheumatoid arthritis.

The Finnish study included 160 people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who were assessed five years after they took part in a clinical trial. In that trial, all of the participants had early stage RA. Some were treated with three different DMARDs, while others received conventional single-DMARD therapy.

This new study, in the July issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, found that, after five years, the people who received the triple combination DMARD therapy had a 28 percent remission rate, compared with a 21 percent remission rate among people in the single DMARD group.

Those in the combination group reported less swelling pain and mobility. They also had significantly less RA-related joint damage in their hands and feet.

These benefits were evident only in those who received combination DMARD treatment shortly after they were diagnosed with RA. Those who started on single DMARD therapy and later switched to combination DMARD therapy did not have the same results.

"The results imply that 'late' institution of DMARD combination does not increase the rate of remission in patients who are initially treated with a single DMARD at a time; that is, the therapeutic 'window of opportunity' appears to be lost in most of these patients," lead researcher Dr. Markku Korpela said in a prepared statement.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, July 6, 2004
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