Nearly six months ago, a literature review presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology conference in Madrid, which drew upon data from 1,156 patients, found that treating very-early-stage arthritis patients with abatacept, methotrexate, methylprednisolone, rituximab, or TNF-blockers could greatly reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis at or beyond 52 weeks. A new systematic review and meta-analysis, published in Arthritis Care & Research, finds that treating undifferentiated arthritis early, particularly with methotrexate, can delay RA progression.

“Treating patients with undifferentiated arthritis resulted in a statistically-significant delay in the development of RA, with the largest effect observed for methotrexate,” write Maria Lopez-Olivo, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and colleagues. “These findings suggest that there is a window of opportunity to treat patients with undifferentiated arthritis early, to delay subsequent progression to RA.”

The researchers searched four digital databases and eventually evaluated nine studies, which included interventions of methotrexate, abatacept, infliximab, intra-articular or intramuscular glucocorticoids, and radiation synovectomy.

At the one-year mark, any of those treatments beat out placebo or no treatment, and those treated with methotrexate fared better than those who did not when it came to the likelihood of developing RA. That latter difference, however, dissolved after 30 or 60 months, the researchers found.

“Undifferentiated arthritis refers to an arthritic-type condition that does not meet the established criteria for a specific condition. Some cases resolve spontaneously, but an estimated half evolve to RA within a year,” reports MedPage. “Treating undifferentiated arthritis before it progresses might be critical,” the researchers write.

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