Early, aggressive use of slow-acting anti-rheumatic drugs (SAARDs) is key to treating rheumatoid arthritis, and two strong SAARDs significantly reduce pain in recently-diagnosed patients.
Typical treatment of rheumatoid arthritis begins with administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which provide symptomatic relief of pain and swelling. Usually, physicians hold off additional treatment with SAARDs pending the use of the NSAIDS.
A group of patients who received the SAARDs methotrexate or sulfasalazine, experienced improved mobility and significantly less joint damage over the course of a study. Doctors at the University Medical Center in the Netherlands tested 107 patients over two years. Researchers applied three different treatment strategies to the recently diagnosed patients. The goal was to compare the levels of effectiveness and toxicity produced by the different approaches.
The authors concluded that early use of a SAARD, as well as a program of “intensive, individualized treatment,” would go a long way towards the goal of achieving remission.
Source: Annals of Rheumatic Diseases