New data from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients reveals that 62% suffer significant negative quality of life issues, affecting their relationships and work in particular, and over half do not take their treatment as prescribed. Alarmingly, over 70% of all RA patients prescribed a first-line oral treatment, as recommended by NICE, stopped taking their treatment completely, with 54% citing unpleasant side effects as the main reason.
Results from the survey, carried out by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), suggest that such poor adherence is linked to the lack of patients’ understanding of, and involvement in, their treatment choice. ‘As time with a consultant can be so limited, it can be difficult for patients to understand everything they need to know about their treatment to ensure they choose one that best suits their needs and lifestyle,’ says clinical nurse specialist in rheumatology, Tracy French.
In fact, consultation times were found to be less than 30 minutes for two-thirds of RA patients and over half of the patients would have liked more information about their proposed treatment. 40% of patients also felt as though their opinions and concerns had little to no influence on their treatment choice. Perhaps not surprisingly those who had a longer consultation, and were provided with more detailed information, reported having a more positive response to their treatment.
‘Simply understanding more about their treatment, how it can be administered, as well as the potential side effects and benefits can dramatically improve adherence and provide better symptom relief, so I advise my patients to ask as many questions as they can in their consultation,’ adds French.
In the recent survey, only 9% of patients were given a choice of how they’d prefer to take one of the most common treatments for rheumatoid arthritis which can be administered in different ways with differing side effect profiles, dosing levels and efficacy rates. However, nearly half of patients who later switched from an oral tablet to an injectable device for the same medication felt that it had had a positive impact on their quality of life. They reported a 42% reduction in side effects and a 40% reduction in symptoms and would have preferred the injectable route if they had known about it at the start of their treatment.
Following these survey results, leading rheumatoid arthritis experts are encouraging patients to adopt the ‘ASK’ approach to a consultation, empowering them to make informed decisions for a better treatment experience.
- Address your main concerns at the start of your consultation.
- Share details of all symptoms with your consultant, prioritisingthe most detrimental to your quality of life.
- Know as much as you can about your prescribed treatment, including what format you can take it in, potential side effects, how long it can take to work and other options if it fails to work.
Clare Jacklin, CEO of NRAS adds: ‘These results show how important it is for patients to understand the benefits and side effects of a treatment. Knowing all the options and feeling involved in the treatment decision making process is shown to result in better adherence and improved symptom relief. This is where NRAS can offer help and information.
‘Many calls to our helpline are from newly diagnosed patients who can really benefit from being put in touch with our “Here For You” volunteers who can share their experience of living with RA and taking medication etc. The lived experience can help to allay worries and anxieties hence improve adherence to treatment.’