Higher Rheumatoid Arthritis Burden Seen in Poorer Nations

Patients in countries with low gross domestic product had significantly higher disease activity
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- The burden of rheumatoid arthritis appears to be greater in less affluent countries compared to wealthier countries, according to research published online July 30 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Tuulikki Sokka, M.D., of the Jyvaskyla Central Hospital in Finland, and colleagues analyzed data from 6,004 patients with rheumatoid arthritis seen in rheumatology clinics in 25 countries in Europe, North and South America, and the Middle East. Patients self-reported on physical function, pain and global health, and physicians noted their disease activity.

The researchers discovered that patients in countries with low gross domestic product (GDP) had significantly higher disease activity across a variety of measures. Erosive disease was less common in high-GDP countries. The use of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs ranged from 88 to 100 percent, with no differences between low- and high-GDP countries. According to the researchers, 61 percent of the variation in disease activity score in 28 joints, a measure of rheumatoid arthritis activity, is explained by GDP.

"The data presented in this report, indicating disparities with other countries, present an important challenge. While it is possible that other nations may 'catch up' over the next decade to advances in the wealthier nations at this time, disparities may continue to exist. Public health efforts would appear potentially to be as important as the introduction of new therapies to treat rheumatoid arthritis," the authors write.

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