-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- About half of rheumatoid
arthritis patients stopped taking their medications within two
years after they started them, a new study finds.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects about one in 100 people worldwide
and can cause progressive joint destruction, deformity, pain and
stiffness. The disease can reduce physical function, quality of
life and life expectancy.
The main reason about one-third of patients discontinued their
medications was because the drugs lost their effectiveness, the
study authors found. Other reasons included safety concerns (20
percent), doctor preference (nearly 28 percent), patient preference
(about 18 percent) and access to treatment (9 percent), according
to the study results, which were presented Thursday at the annual
meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), in
Rheumatoid arthritis "is a progressive disease, which, if left
untreated, can significantly and permanently reduce joint function,
patient mobility and quality of life," study lead author Dr. Vibeke
Strand, a clinical professor at Stanford University School of
Medicine, said in an EULAR news release.
"Studies have shown that patients sustain maximum benefit from [rheumatoid arthritis] treatment in the first two years -- yet our data highlight significant discontinuation rates during this time period," Strand said.
The study included more than 6,200 rheumatoid arthritis patients
who started treatment by taking either tumor necrosis factor
inhibitors (TNFi) or non-TNFi biologics. In the TNFi group, the
percentages of patients who continued taking their medications were
about 82 percent at six months, 68 percent at 12 months and 52
percent at 24 months. In the non-TNFi group, the percentages for
those corresponding time periods were about 81 percent, 63 percent
and 46 percent, respectively.
The average time to medication discontinuation was 26.5 months
in the TNFi group and 20.5 months in the non-TNFi group, the
"While there is no cure for [rheumatoid arthritis], initiating treatment early and improving adherence can enable patients to lead active and productive lives," Strand said in the news release.
The data and conclusions of research presented at medical
meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a
The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and
Skin Diseases has more about
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