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Arthritis cases on the rise in Qatar

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is increasingly becoming a common problem here with majority of the sufferers being women in .

Though no complete cure is available till date, latest advancements in the medical science gives much promise to the patients, according to an expert.

“We see patients at our clinic every day and now we have some 700 to 800 patients,” said Dr Mohammed Hammoudeh, Chief of Rheumatology, HMC. “The majority of our patients are women and in an age-group of 30 to 50 years. RA is an auto-immune disease in which the immune system of the body starts attacking the body tissues. Most of the time it remains with the patient throughout the life,” he told The Peninsula.

In Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients, the immune system will start producing inflammatory proteins (anti-bodies) causing swelling in joints. Women are more hit, as the female hormones have been found to propel autoimmunity and inflammation.

The most common symptom of (Rheumatoid Arthritis) RA is pain, stiffness or swelling of joints which is usually disregarded until it gets worse.

“If the patient comes to us in the first three months, we can, in long-run, help to cure. However, in most of the cases early treatment is not possible because of delayed diagnosis as symptoms are often mistaken as minor issues.”

RA over long term can result in immobility and physiological trauma. Studies have shown that it can also shorten life expectancy.

“There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, and so doctors now focus on alleviating symptoms and modifying the disease process. Last few years the treatment options have expanded a lot including with the latest therapies using biologics which give quicker relief to the patients,” he said.

Biologics include a wide range of medicinal products created by biological processes and have had a profound impact on many medical fields, primarily rheumatology and oncology.

In RA treatment, biologics can alleviate symptoms fast and in long term they can prevent destruction of joints and erosion of bones. These treatments are called targeted therapy, since the drugs target the proteins that cause inflammation.

“Biologics have changed the life of the patient. Ten years ago, we could not do anything for the patients. Today, there are different kinds of biologic drugs available, targeting at specific kinds of inflammatory agents. Any of these drugs can be used on a patient either individually or mixed with other drugs,” Dr Hammoudeh said.

The latest drug in the biologic group is Actemra (tocilizumab) which blocks the action of interleukin 6 (IL-6), a protein involved in the inflammatory process. Studies have shown that overproduction of IL-6 leads to inflammation, swelling, joint damage and destruction, and many systemic symptoms associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). The clinical studies for the drug had involved more than 4000 multi-national patients making it the largest clinical development program for an indication in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) to date.

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