Rheumatoid Arthritis-History and Future

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune disease which means that it causes our immune system to attack healthy parts of our body. In RA, the joints are the target. The inflammation thickens the tissue that lines the joints (synovium), creating swelling and pain inside and outside of the joints. If left untreated, joint damage, joint deformity, and loss of mobility can happen.

Did you know that without clinical research, RA may still be categorized in the same family as gout? Clinical research plays a vital role in the treatment and understanding of a condition. Rheumatoid arthritis is no different. When diagnosed early and with treatment, RA can be managed. Joint damage is not reversible, but research enables doctors to continue to learn more about how to properly detect RA and effectively treat those with the condition.

A History Tied to Gout

Gout exhibits some of the same trademark symptoms of RA, so up until further research and testing showed its distinction, it was thought to be related to gout. In 1859, the English physician Alfred Garrod was the first to identify gout as being different from other arthritic conditions. Also, RA was classified as its own condition, coining the term “rheumatic gout.” His fourth son, Archibald Garrod changed the name to what we know it today as rheumatoid arthritis in 1890.

What Treatment Looks Like Today

Current treatment options for RA aim to reduce symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Some examples of treatments for RA include:

Symptom Treatment:
  • NSAID- Helps ease pain and inflammation.
    • Examples: Naproxen and ibuprofen.
Slows Progression:
  • Corticosteroid-Quick-acting anti-inflammatory medication that helps get the inflammation under control.
    • Examples: Prednisone and methylprednisolone
  • DMARDs (Disease Modification Antirheumatic Drugs)– Modifies the course of the disease
    • Examples: methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine
  • Biologics– Target specific steps of the anti-inflammatory process.
    • Examples: Humira, Orencia
  • JAK Inhibitors– Blocks pathways involved in the body’s immune response.
    • Example: Tofacitinib


Since there is not a cure for joint damage, surgery is an option to replace the damaged joints. Hips and knees are the most often replaced.

Future Treatment and Clinical Trials

Clinical trials have played a large role in the treatment options available today for RA, but everyone’s body works differently and what works for one patient may not be effective for another. One difference is that women process medications differently than men. If you have other conditions, you have may also limitations to what you can take. Immunity to certain medications can develop as well, causing some treatment options to not be as effective.

These are just a few reasons that clinical trials will always be needed until there is a cure. If you or someone you love is suffering from moderate to severe RA, clinical trials may be an option for you. Current enrolling trials are looking into a new treatment option for RA. Qualified participants receive access to study-related care and medication, and reimbursement for time and travel. If you or someone you love is interested in learning more about this study, click HERE.