Rheumatoid arthritis therapy has improved steadily

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The health status of people with rheumatoid arthritis improved between 1994 and 2004, according to a new study. The researchers suggest this is most likely the result of better and more aggressive treatments.

“Over the last decade, major changes have occurred in the provision of health care for patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” they point out in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

“Growing attention has been paid to improved management strategies with early and more aggressive treatment,” write Dr. Till Uhlig, of Diakonhjemmet Hospital in Oslo, and colleagues, “which reflects important advances in the treatment along with access to more effective and specific drugs for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”

The researchers examined changes in self-reported health from 1994 to 2004 among patients in the Oslo Rheumatoid Arthritis Register. Postal questionnaires were sent to all patients in 1994, 1996, 2001 and 2004. An average of 924 patients between the ages of 20 and 79 years responded each year.

Overall, the health status of the patients consistently improved in all dimensions of health evaluated over the 10-year period. Improvements were significant for the physical dimension, global health, and pain.

“This study demonstrates consistent improvement in rheumatoid arthritis health status in the population from 1994 to 2004, and also better health status outcomes in patients with more recent disease onset,” Uhlig and colleagues conclude.

They add, “Our findings thus support the importance of improved management strategies in population settings where the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis has not yet been given a sufficiently high priority.”

SOURCE: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, December 2008.


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