Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size
A
A
A

Hitting Rheumatoid Arthritis Hard

Aggressive Treatment More Effective, Reduces Work Disability

WebMD Health News

Oct. 25, 2002 -- For the best treatment in early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, experts have two suggestions -- act quickly and see a specialist.

Both strategies help ensure that patients are more likely to get the best type and combination of drugs found to be most effective in treating this disabling form of arthritis, according to two studies presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

In one study, Canadian researchers found that people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were more likely to receive disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate -- considered the best first-line defense in slowing disease progression -- when treated by a rheumatologist. In tracking more than 29,000 patients over five years, they found that 80% were given DMARD treatment by a rheumatologist, who specializes in arthritis treatment, compared with 53% of patients seeing a general internist and 14% seeing their family physician.

In another study, Finnish researchers found that patients who got prompt treatment with combination DMARD therapy from rheumatologists were more likely to return to work sooner than those receiving just one DMARD. The patients getting combination drug therapy went on work disability one-third less frequently than those receiving a single drug, the researchers found.

"It's pretty exciting because for years, we've known that work loss is the most economically damaging aspect of rheumatoid arthritis," says Edward Yelin, PhD, director of the Arthritis Research Group at the University of California, San Francisco. "On average, the per-person cost of rheumatoid arthritis in the U.S. is about $20,000 per year. Of that, about two-thirds results from lost work wages due to disability."

Yelin tells WebMD that both studies indicate the effectiveness of DMARD medications, but the Finnish report also gives new credibility to a growing trend of prescribing different types of these drugs to treat early symptoms. "DMARDs are very effective, but since these drugs work on different biological mechanisms, it stands to reason that combination therapy might affect more of those mechanisms and have a greater effect," he says.

That study backs previous findings that combination therapy helps slow progression of the joint damage caused by the disease, but was specifically looking at how this regimen affected patients' ability to work. "Most people with advanced rheumatoid arthritis are unable to work at all, so early treatment with combination therapy to slow progression could have a major impact on future earnings," says Yelin, professor of health policy studies who tracks these trends.

Today on WebMD

rubbing hands
Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
mature couple exercising
Decrease pain, increase energy.
 
mature woman threading needle
How much do you know?
hands
Swelling, fatigue, pain, and more.
 
Lucille Ball
Slideshow
Hand bones X-ray
Article
 
prescription pills
Article
Woman massaging her neck
Quiz
 
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Slideshow
Woman rubbing shoulder
Slideshow
 
doctor and patient hand examination
Video
arthritis
Article