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Biologics for Rheumatoid Arthritis: No Cure-all

Biologic Therapies Ease but Don't Eliminate RA Symptoms, Study Says

Biologics for RA: Study Details continued...

Those still taking the biologics, he says, "still suffered from some degree of pain, morning stiffness, and have a reduced quality of life."

But those who stopped the drug reported "significantly worse scores" for fatigue, pain, and quality of life measures, he says. They also lost more work time and had more impairment in daily activities, he says, but the differences in this area did not reach statistical significance.

The findings suggest that RA patients' medical needs are not being totally met, Tang says. Centocor supported the study.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Relief: Second Opinion

The study findings ring true in clinical practice, says Scott Zashin, MD, a rheumatologist at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano, Texas, and a clinical assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Complicating the picture, he says, is that RA patients may have other problems, such as fibromyalgia, a disorder also marked by chronic pain.

He tells patients to expect the best from biologic treatment and to focus on the goal -- putting them in remission -- but to understand that it may not happen.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Beyond Medications

In addition to medication, Tang says, RA patients can pay attention to lifestyle habits. Exercising regularly and not smoking are both good measures, he says.

Zashin agrees. Among the specific suggestions he gives his RA patients to reduce pain, stiffness, fatigue, and other symptoms:

  • Get enough sleep. The hours needed will vary from patient to patient, but he tells patients to get enough sleep so they wake up feeling refreshed.
  • Do aerobic exercise for 30 minutes five days a week. Walking and swimming are two good choices.
  • Control stress in your life. Meditation is one way.
  • Be open to alternative treatments. For example, in patients with RA who also have osteoarthritis, the "wear-and-tear" form, Zashin says he has had success using acupuncture treatments.

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