Got RA? Don't Delay!

Published Online: Monday, July 1, 2002

When it comes to beginning treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, minutes and seconds may not count, but weeks and months surely do.

In a 3-year study at the University Hospital of Vienna and at Lainz Hospital in Austria, researchers found that there is a definite "window of opportunity" for successful treatment.

The study compared patients with very early disease who had waited an average of 3 months before being started on drugs to a group who had waited 20 months to start therapy.

After just 3 months of treatment, patients with early therapy were doing better than those who had waited longer. At the end of the study, 70% of patients in the early-treatment group showed a 20% improvement in disease symptoms. Meanwhile, only 40% of those in the later-treatment group improved.

The researchers concluded that introducing disease-modifying drugs very early "seems highly beneficial in [rheumatoid arthritis] compared with even relatively short delay."

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