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Is this the Best Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug Combination?

Update Date: Nov 11, 2014 10:05 AM EST

A new combination of existing Rheumatoid Arthritis drugs can help cut costs and side effects while maintaining treatment effectiveness.

The combination was a result of a two-year study by University Hospitals Leuven researchers who sought to determine the best combination of three commonly used anti-rheumatic drugs methotrexate, sulfasalazine, leflunomide and glucocorticosteriods. The combinations that researchers analysed were 'COBRA Classic' (methotrexate, sulfasalazine and a high first dose of glucocorticoids), 'COBRA Slim' (methotrexate and a moderate dose of glucocorticoids) or 'COBRA Avant-Garde' (methotrexate, leflunomide and a moderate dose of glucocorticoids).

The study found that COBRA Slim combination was just as efficient as others but induced fewer side effects and is easier to administer. All combinations achieved disease remission in 7 out of 10 patients after 16 weeks of treatment but the COBRA Slim strategy which involves use of minimal medication had just as half as many side effects as other combinations.

"One surprising finding in the study was the high remission values recorded for all of the applied intensive treatment strategies, which were unprecedented internationally," Diederik De Cock, doctoral researcher said in a press release.

"Methotrexate is very affordable, as are steroids. Implementing this therapy would mean substantial savings. At the moment, RA treatment is not yet adequately standardized in Belgium, and this leads to treatment inefficiencies. As a result, more patients require expensive second-line antirheumatic therapies known as biologicals, which can cost up to 15,000 euros per year. By comparison, the COBRA Slim strategy costs less than 1,000 euros. In other words, we can treat up to 15 patients for the same price as a year of treatment with a biological," De Cock added.

Rheumatoid arthritis has no cure but caregivers prescribe medication to manage symptoms like pain and symptoms. Early treatment of the disease is associated with better outcomes.

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