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Rheumatoid arthritis treatments – advances 2017

Posted by Helen Potter on 30 March 2017 | Filed under Pain, Uncategorized

11:52am March 20, 2017 Channel 9 AAP

New rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treatments

What is RA

RA is one of the most common forms of arthritis. It affects an estimated two per cent of the Australian population. The autoimmune disease causes the immune system to mistakenly target the body’s joints. The lining of the joints become inflamed, leading to pain and stiffness. Often misalignment of the joints  occurs in the hands and feet. As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. The cause of RA remains unknown and there is no cure.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

– Tender, warm, swollen joints

– Morning stiffness that may last for hours

– Firm bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms (rheumatoid nodules)

– Fatigue, fever and weight loss

How is RA treated?

Currently, most patients manage the symptoms of the disease through a combination of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include ibuprofen, and immunosuppressants. Immunosuppressants target the whole immune system to slow the progression of RA. However, in recent years a new class of treatments known as biologics, developed through genetic engineering, have become available. 

News for RA treatment

As a result, Australians with RA have “much to look forward to”, say the authors of a new report in the Medical Journal of Australia. The study team includes Professor Graeme Jones from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania.”There are now eight approved biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs), two biosimilars and one targeted synthetic DMARD in Australia. A number of new products and biosimilars are in the pipeline.”

“Rather than targeting the whole immune system, biologics only target and suppress elements of the body’s inflammatory response that are specific to RA. The goal is to slow down the progression of arthritis, and  preserve joint function for as long as possible.


These newer therapies are most effective in the first six months of the disease. “This means that RA should be diagnosed and treated with DMARD therapy as quickly as possible to maximise this benefit, says Prof Jones and his co-authors.

© AAP 2017


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