Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can keep both patients and physicians on their toes as they figure out the best ways to treat the symptoms and slow the progression of the condition.
Recently, advances in treatment strategies have resulted in ever-improving outcomes and quality of life for those with rheumatoid arthritis.
Experts are improving RA treatment by rethinking how it’s treated. A good example of this is the rise of the “treat to target” philosophy of treatment.
Treat to target is a treatment strategy that involves:
- Setting a specific testing goal that signals either remission or low disease state (see: Blood Tests to Help Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA))
- Testing monthly to monitor progress
- Switching medication regimen promptly if progress isn’t made (see: 5 Types of Medication That Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis)
It’s thought that Treat to Target is effective because it encourages doctors to test more often and be more aggressive in altering a treatment plan that isn’t working. It’s also helpful to have a specific remission-based goal, which can be more meaningful to patients than, for example, a change in percentage points on an ACR test.
Research has shown that the treat to target approach can result in sustained remission for those with early RA and can also be effective for those with longstanding RA, according to the Arthritis Foundation.1
In studies of the Treat to Target method, patients with early RA (less than one year of symptoms) achieved low disease activity, high remission rates, and improved function. These results were sustained, as well—in many cases for several years.
Treat to Target has also shown promise for those with more established RA, but more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
There’s no question that rheumatoid arthritis can be a challenge to manage. But thanks to advances in RA treatment, the options for those with RA are steadily improving.
- “Treat to Target Approach Improves RA Outcomes.” Arthritis Foundation. Accessed September 2016.