Treatment

Treating rheumatoid arthritis - holding back the damage

Increased understanding of rheumatoid arthritis and progress in biotechnology have revolutionised treatment over the last couple of decades.

Traditionally, treatment was based on large-scale suppression of the immune system (immunosuppression) and the use of anti-inflammatory agents. Doctors still use a range of these treatments – often in combination with each other or with newer treatments.

They include disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) - non-specific immunosuppressive drugs intended to combat the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and slow down joint destruction. Glucocorticoids (corticosteroids) counter inflammation, but side-effects limit their use. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to manage the signs and symptoms of mild rheumatoid arthritis.

In the 1990s, researchers acquired ever more knowledge about rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. At the same time, advances in gene technology provided medicine with a completely new class of substances, namely biopharmaceuticals.

The result was new treatments that act on the processes involved in the disease, making it possible to stop or at least slow its progression. Roche’s research led to the discovery of innovative new therapies that target the key drivers of inflammation. Roche continues to lead the way by developing biopharmaceutical treatments with different modes of actions that offer alternative options to physicians and people with the disease.

Our selective B cell therapy - initially used to fight a type of blood cancer - selectively intervenes in the molecular course of the disease without weakening the immune system as a whole. This mechanism of action can alleviate pain and also help to hold the disease in check. Our newest medicine is the first in a new class of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, which targets an alternative cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6) – thought to be a key driver of inflammation in the body.

In the UK, Roche’s pharmaceutical teams work with healthcare professionals and the NHS to make these innovative products widely available. Our aim is to ensure that all eligible people have access to the most appropriate treatment in their fight against rheumatoid arthritis.

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