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Rheumatoid Arthritis Death Rate Unchanged
Date:10/29/2007

Underlying inflammation may affect heart despite symptom relief, experts say

MONDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Americans are likely to live longer than they did 40 years ago, but not if they have rheumatoid arthritis, according to a new study from the Mayo Clinic.

"When you look at persons with rheumatoid arthritis, they do not seem to have experienced the benefits over the last several decades of improved survival the rest of us have," said study co-author Dr. Sherine E. Gabriel, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The findings, based on a large population sample of mostly white Minnesotans, showed that women and men diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis between 1965 and 2000 died at a steady rate of 2.4 percent and 2.5 percent per year, respectively.

During the same period of time, annual death rates declined for men and women without rheumatoid arthritis. The rate fell from 1 percent per year for women in 1965 to 0.20 percent in 2000, and for men it dropped from 1.2 percent to 0.30 percent.

"This suggests that the dramatic changes in therapeutic strategies for rheumatoid arthritis in the last 4 to 5 decades have not had a major impact on excess mortality," the study authors said.

Looking further, they also extended the follow-up to 2007 on the sample of those diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis between 1965 and 2000, hoping to pick up any downward trend in death rates resulting from the impact of the newest medications, Gabriel explained. Unfortunately, they found no such trend.

Still, a decline could show up if future studies with a longer look back at 2000 and later, when some of the most significant new medications were introduced, Gabriel and others say.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease where the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues. It causes inflammation and painful joints, and also may attack other organs
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