Study identifies new ways to overcome rheumatoid arthritis

A RECENT study conducted by the University of South Australia has found that women with rheumatoid arthritis who take oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have a higher chance of achieving remission.

The study, which evaluated data from 4474 female rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with anti-inflammatory drug Tocilizumab and other immuno-suppressive medications, has made a link between remission, reproductive status, and sex hormone use.

The research revealed that pre-menopausal women, who still experience a regular menstrual cycle, have fewer symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis compared to peri-menopausal or post-menopausal women. Furthermore, women who used HRT or oral contraceptives in combination with drugs prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis were found to have a much greater chance of achieving remission.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Michael Wiese explains that it is too early to say that HRT and oral contraceptives have a protective effect against rheumatoid arthritis, but the study has revealed a potential connection.

Assoc Prof Wiese suggests that each woman’s decision to use HRT should be based on an in-depth discussion with a general practitioner, as it could modify the risk of some cancers and cardiovascular disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis is more prevalent in women aged under 50 years than men in the same age group and is twice as common in women over 60 years.

Women with rheumatoid arthritis experience a decline in inflammatory activity when they fall pregnant, while early menopause increases the risk of developing the condition.

The study, which highlights the potential role of female sex hormones in improving outcomes for women with rheumatoid arthritis, has been published in the latest issue of Rheumatology.