Early rheumatoid arthritis treatment

By ANMJ Staff|
August 3rd, 2018|

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Early diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis ( RA) underpins a new evidence-based education program for health professionals aiming to improve the quality of life of patients with the condition.

Developed by NPS MedicineWise in partnership with the Australian Rheumatology Association and Arthritis Australia, the education program reinforces how early diagnosis and treatment can alter the course of the disease, improve physical function, delay or prevent irreversible joint damage and boost the chances of clinical remission in patients.

Dr Andrew Boyden, a medical advisor with NPS MedicineWise, says there is a small ‘window of opportunity’ as short as three months from the onset of the disease where therapy has the most impact.

“Early diagnosis of RA and initiation of treatment is vital,” Dr Boyden says.

“This program supports GPs to recognise clinical features that suggest RA may be present – and assists them with how they approach diagnostic testing. Early referral to a specialist to confirm the diagnosis and allow the timely initiation of treatment is also encouraged.”

While evidence-based guidelines support the use of methotrexate as the best treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, Dr Boyden suggests misconceptions commonly compromise its uptake.

He said communication between patients and healthcare providers can help form an integrated management plan and that consistent messaging about appropriate medicines, strategies for pain management and lifestyle medication can support better outcomes.

“Consumer information commonly refers to cautions and potential toxicity concerns that apply to methotrexate when it is used in high doses as chemotherapy. These are not relevant to the much lower doses used to treat RA.”

NPS MedicineWise held a webinar for health professionals earlier this year ‘Rheumatoid arthritis: getting the facts straight about methotrexate’ which featured an interdisciplinary discussion about why early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for improved health outcomes.

Last year, a report backed by Arthritis Australia highlighted the lack of sufficient rheumatology nurses to provide care to an estimated 1.7 million sufferers of chronic inflammatory forms of arthritis.

Despite inflammatory forms of arthritis costing the Australian health system about $2.8 billion in 2015, the report found just 39 full-time equivalent rheumatology nurses practice in Australia, or just one nurse for every 45,000 sufferers.

The report argued that increasing rheumatology nurses would result in quicker diagnoses, better care and reduced health system costs.


  1. Diana August 20, 2018 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    It took my doctor 7 years to diagnose me with RA even though my mum and brother had it.i went to hell and back and was told all different things was wrong with me.i now take methotrexate and xeljanz and am now the best I have been in 15 years.it should never had taken that long.

  2. Veronica sullivan September 7, 2018 at 1:57 am - Reply

    Sadly Methotrexate was not a good outcome for my mother, hopefully we can soon see better alternatives

  3. H Witte September 10, 2018 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    3 months after I was diagnosed with RA I was also diagnosed with Interstitial Lung Disease caused by the RA. There doesn’t seem to be any medications to relieve the breathing problems. Would welcome any helpful suggestions.have had the condition foe almost 2 years.

  4. Yolande Maynard September 25, 2018 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    I have just started a actemra injections hopefully they will eventually help Last year had a coarse of metheltrexate and prednisone was so glad to get off these drugs but the Did stop the inflammation

  5. Monica Ranson April 12, 2019 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    After my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis in 2009. I was put on Naprosyn and after some time i didn’t feel any different, so i started on a Natural RA Formula treatment protocol from RICH HERBS FOUNDATION (ww w. richherbsfoundation. c om), the treatment effectively treated my Rheumatoid Arthritis condition. The swellings, stiffness, fatigue and joint/muscle/body pains has subsided, I feel better overall than i have felt in years. Its almost like a miracle!

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