Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms Not Alleviated by Disease Treatment

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Rheumatoid Arthritis patients still have symptoms of pain & disability

In a press release posted this week from Rome, the European League against Rheumatism (EULAR) says women with Rheumatoid Arthritis experience Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms despite treatment. (Link to view non-pdf version of EULAR press release.) The survey of 2,000 Rheumatoid Arthritis patients found a majority experienced ongoing pain and other debilitating symptoms of RA despite disease treatment.

The list of Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms they experienced is familiar:

87% regularly discussed ongoing pain with healthcare providers
71% of those still working said they were less productive at work
63% experienced daily pain
56% called their RA emotionally distressing
49% wanted additional ways to obtain relief beyond current medications
49% found certain activities more difficult or impossible to do
40% reported feeling depressed much of the time
40% of single respondents said RA made it more difficult to find a partner
24% reported difficulty sleeping
23% had stopped working because of the disease
22% of separated or divorced respondents said the disease played a role in the failure of the relationship

Biologics don’t bring remission of Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms for most patients

Every day, I see patients asking, “Why does my doctor say I’m doing well, but I still have these problems?” There is an assumption by many, even doctors, that Biologics and DMARDs treat Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms sufficiently. Not exactly.

According to Medpage Today’s coverage of the EULAR meeting, Dr. Vibeke Strand called some of the findings “very much an eye-opener to me.” Strand “added that, although biologic drugs had clearly made RA treatment more effective, ‘they are not doing as good a job as we’d like to think they could do.’”

EULAR president Dr. Paul Emery said, “The research highlights the complexity of the management of RA , and the pain associated with RA, over and above basic symptom control.”

Last month, I read an article* that discussed the difference between the effectiveness of Biologics in the general RA population and their effectiveness when measured in clinical trials. The treatments are turning out to be less effective in practice than they were in the studies. Is that why Rheumatoid Arthritis patients often wince at advertisements for Biologics that make it appear that we can get our old life back? One recent scientific article says that fewer than half of us do. Other lists about Biologics we’ve seen show a response rate about 40%.  Of course that’s not for remission; it’s only for improvement.

The report presented at EULAR was not a surprise to patients since we already know we take medications to manage RA symptoms that disease treatment does not address. Most RA patients I meet take prednisone, pain killers, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatories, or sleep medicines, or a combination of them.  I’m so glad somebody thought to ask them about it.

*I have some interesting things I wanted to do with that article, but first I need to find it! I spent a few hours today looking for it in my computer or online. If you come across it, please send the link.

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Friday, June 25th, 2010 at 7:03 am and is filed under RA Education, Reality Check. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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