What are the treatment guidelines for managing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to therapeutic target?

Updated: Feb 07, 2020
  • Author: Howard R Smith, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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The following guidelines on treating RA to therapeutic target were issued in 2015 by an international task force of rheumatologists, patient representatives, and a rheumatology nurse [7, 8] :

  • The primary target for treatment of RA should be a state of clinical remission. Clinical remission is defined as the absence of signs and symptoms of significant inflammatory disease activity.
  • While remission should be a clear target, low-disease activity may be an acceptable alternative therapeutic goal, particularly in long-standing disease.
  • The use of validated composite measures of disease activity, which include joint assessments, is needed in routine clinical practice to guide treatment decisions.
  • The choice of the (composite) measure of disease activity and the target value should be influenced by comorbidities, patient factors, and drug-related risks.
  • Measures of disease activity must be obtained and documented regularly: as frequently as monthly for patients with high/moderate disease activity or less frequently (such as every 6 mo) for patients in sustained low-disease activity or remission.
  • Structural changes and functional impairment and comorbidity should be considered when making clinical decisions, in addition to assessing composite measures of disease activity.
  • Until the desired treatment target is reached, drug therapy should be adjusted at least every 3 mo.
  • The desired treatment target should be maintained throughout the remaining course of the disease.
  • The rheumatologist should involve the patient in setting the treatment target and the strategy to reach this target.

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