New research out of The Universities of Manchester and East Anglia shows that people living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) experience significant improvement in their daily lives due to early and more aggressive treatment of the disease.
The Arthritis Research UK study examined 20 years of data between 1990 and 2010. A total of 602 patients participated in the study led by James Gwinnutt, from The University of Manchester and Dr. Suzan Verstappen University of Manchester.
Participants were recruited to the Norfolk Arthritis Register and assessed at regular intervals over the course of 20 years.
They found that patients who were prescribed disease modifying drug therapies such as sulfasalazine, methotrexate and steroids within 6 months of symptom onset experienced significantly better ability to walk, grip and dress themselves over the course of 20 years compared, to patients who were treated later.
“This research shows that patients who received treatment early after symptom onset had similar levels of disability over the subsequent 20 years compared to patients who were judged by clinicians not to require treatment, after accounting for the differences in disease severity between the groups,” Gwinnutt said.
“Though there is a broad range in terms of how people are affected by the disease, the number of patients whose lives have improved has increased thanks in part to early treatment. The good news is that early intervention has become more and more common in the NHS over these past 20 years. In the early 1990s early intervention would happen in about 30% of cases. Nowadays, that figure is probably more like 60-70%. There’s no reason why this improvement could not extend further,” he added.
Dr Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation at Arthritis Research UK, said:
“Rheumatoid arthritis is an incredibly painful condition that can be diagnosed at any age and can have an impact on a person’s everyday life. This study confirms how important early diagnosis and the commencement of treatment is. It is also encouraging to hear about the progress that has been made over the last 20 years. Now the scientific community must continue to build on this so that together we can continue to harness the power of exceptional science and make everyday life better for all people with arthritis.”
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation and pain.