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Daily Pain, Fatigue From Rheumatoid Arthritis

70% of Patients Experience Daily Difficulties, Says Study
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WebMD Health News

Oct. 1, 2004 -- Pain, stiffness, and fatigue affect 70% of rheumatoid arthritis patients every day despite treatment with the newer, more advanced drugs against the disease, according to a new Arthritis Foundation survey.

The telephone survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for the Arthritis Foundation, included 500 adults with rheumatoid arthritis.

Over the past decade, newer, more sophisticated drugs have been developed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, giving hope to doctors that they may be able to better control the disease. "This survey brings to light the need for aggressive research to improve the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, a disease affecting more than 2.1 million Americans," says John H. Klippel, MD, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation, in a news release.

Eligible participants had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, had seen a doctor specializing in arthritis at least once a year, described their rheumatoid arthritis as moderate or severe, and were taking either a biologic drug (such as Enbrel, Humira, Kineret, and Remicade) or one of two disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) (Arava or methotrexate).

Half of the participants said that taking one of these types of arthritis medications had improved their pain, stiffness, and swelling. About 50% also said their quality of life had improved.

Most also ranked their overall quality of life at 5 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest quality of life.

However, participants also reported continuing difficulties, despite their medications.

More than one third ranked their overall quality of life as five or less on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest quality of life.

Nearly half of the patients modified daily activities to compensate for symptoms.

Most patients on both types of drug also said they felt tired every day.

"While it is encouraging to learn that the majority of patients taking either DMARDs or biologics perceive their medication has provided them with some relief from their RA symptoms, the disappointment lies in the lack of control they feel in managing their condition from day to day," Klippel says.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks healthy joint tissue, causing inflammation and joint damage, according to the news release.

Three times as many women as men are affected.

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