Rheumatoid arthritis treatment is constantly evolving, with researchers working to find new therapies to relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
With the right treatment plan, many patients have controlled symptoms and no signs of active disease.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD) have been the traditional choice of treatment for RA. Methotrexate is a type of DMARD commonly used that suppresses the overactive immune system as a whole. Biologics are considered a targeted DMARD that target specific parts of the immune system to block inflammation.
The latest FDA-approved RA medication is Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors. JAK inhibitors block the immune system pathway from creating certain enzymes that can lead to RA. There are currently three JAK inhibitors approved for treating RA.
According to Dr. Koval, “Upacitinib (Rinvoq) is a relatively new JAK inhibitor, which has shown good success in head-to-head trials versus other well-established biologic drugs.”
Dr. Koval and Dr. Martinez both use JAK inhibitors to treat patients and have found them to be an effective treatment option.
“The drugs differ based on which specific JAK molecules they inhibit, and we have yet to identify which target is superior,” added Dr. Koval.
Dr. Koval adds “there are many new mechanisms of action being studied right now that have the potential to change the RA treatment landscape as well.”
Individualized Treatment Plans for Rheumatoid Arthritis
As more RA treatments become available to patients, rheumatologists can continue to fine tune individualized approaches to treatment.
“Developing a treatment plan must be individualized to every patient with RA,” explained Dr. Martinez.
Dr. Koval agrees. “Treatment strategies remain extremely individualized based on patient desires, characteristics, and comorbidities.”
With so much research and funding currently available on rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatologists must constantly analyze the data and keep up to date on the latest developments.
“We can identify which therapies perhaps work better than others, Dr. Koval explains.
“We are also able to identify certain side effects or nuances with certain drugs that make them more or less appropriate for individual patients.”
“Current research has provided evidence for [the] use of additional treatment options when first-line pharmacologic agents prove inadequate for a patient,” Dr. Koval says. “In these circumstances, using a treatment that affects different biologic pathways has shown to be an effective approach in my clinical practice.”
When will there be a cure for RA?
There is no cure for arthritis, but with continued research and technology, there is hope for the future.
“Seeing how far we have come with RA in just the [past] 30 years, it makes me encouraged that we will one day find a cure,” Dr. Koval says. “Science and technology [have] advanced considerably in this field, and I am excited at what the future may bring.”
Dr. Martinez feels more cautiously optimistic. “It is not clear if or when we will have a ‘cure’ for RA,” he stated. “There is significant research going on to better help us understand the causes and mechanisms that lead to RA, perhaps helping us reach that lofty goal in the future.”
Natural therapies for rheumatoid arthritis
Patients may look for other options outside of prescription medications to manage their symptoms. Rheumatologist often encourage patients to try therapies outside of the normal medical scope to relieve pain.
“Patients will try many different ‘natural’ modalities to help with pain,” said Dr. Koval. “Various supplements, including turmeric, omega-3s, and CBD oil, have shown some success.”
Dr. Martinez also explained that “regular low impact exercise can be important for strengthening the joint and maintaining good range of motion, which can be very helpful in RA.”
Dr. Koval added that his patients often use “light exercise such as yoga or Pilates, combined with a regular stretching routine,” to help with pain management.
In addition to aerobic and strength-building routines to help reduce RA pain and increase range of motion, Dr. Koval also recommends behavioral or cognitive therapy for those who may benefit from it.
Read the entire Medical News Today article here.
Texas Orthopedics Rheumatology Services