Arthritis

Updated 11 December 2015

Many rheumatoid arthritis patients skip meds

A new British study has found that a large number of people with severe rheumatoid arthritis are not taking their prescribed medications, which may lead to worsening of symptoms.

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Failure to take the drugs correctly reduces their effectiveness and may lead to a worsening of symptoms, warned researchers from the University of Manchester.

Rheumatoid arthritis develops when your immune system begins to attack itself, and symptoms include inflammation, pain and swelling in the joints and internal organs.

Not taking meds as prescribed

The study included 286 patients who had rheumatoid arthritis for seven years and had been prescribed anti-TNF drugs, which cost about $13,000 to $20,000 a year per patient. Anti-TNF drugs include etanercept (Enbrel), adalimumab (Humira) and golimumab (Simponi).

Twenty-seven percent of the patients said they didn't take the medications as directed at least once over the first six months after being prescribed the drugs, according to the study published recently in the journal Rheumatology.

Read: Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

It's not clear whether the patients' failure to take the drugs as prescribed was deliberate or accidental, and further research is needed to learn more about why this occurs, the researchers said.

"If patients do not take their medication as prescribed it is likely to have a significant effect on whether they respond to therapy and could mean that their condition deteriorates more quickly, affecting their quality of life," study author and rheumatology expert Dr. Kimme Hyrich said in a university news release. "Non-adherence is also a waste of scarce health care resources and something that needs to be addressed."

Anti-TNF drugs changes lives

Anti-TNF drugs have transformed the lives of many patients with rheumatoid arthritis and related disorders, Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said in the news release.

Read: Causes of rheumatoid arthritis

"This success has been at a considerable cost to the [National Health Service] but there was always the assumption that patients prescribed these drugs will have the necessary regular injections," Silman said.

"The fact that a considerable proportion of patients are missing doses of these very expensive agents is worrying, as clearly their effectiveness would be reduced," he added.

Read more:

Smoking associated with rheumatoid arthritis

Drinkers are less likely to develop arthritis


 

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Arthritis expert

Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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