The evidence-based program reinforces that early investigation and diagnosis leading to early treatment of the condition can alter the course of the disease, improve physical function, delay or prevent irreversible joint damage and increase the chance of clinical remission in patients.

Dr Andrew Boyden, medical advisor with NPS MedicineWise says, “Early diagnosis of RA and initiation of treatment is vital. This program supports GPs to recognise clinical features that suggest RA may be present  and assists them with how they approach diagnostic testing. Early referral to a specialist to confirm the diagnosis and allow the timely initiation of treatment is also encouraged.

“There is a small ‘window of opportunity’, possibly as short as three months from disease onset during which therapy has the most impact,” Dr Boyden adds.

While evidence-based guidelines continue to support the role of methotrexate as the gold standard treatment for RA, patient adherence may be compromised by common myths and misconceptions about methotrexate.

Dr Andrew Boyden explains, “Consumer information commonly refers to cautions and potential toxicity concerns that apply to methotrexate when it is used in high doses as chemotherapy. These are not relevant to the much lower doses used to treat RA. It is likely this information has influenced the development of myths and misconceptions about its use in the treatment of RA.”

Collaboration and communication between the patient and all their healthcare providers, including pharmacists, can contribute to an integrated management plan. Providing consistent messaging about appropriate medicines, strategies for pain management and lifestyle modification help to support adherence and optimise outcomes.

Health professionals are encouraged to follow the link below to sign up for the NPS MedicineWise webinar Rheumatoid arthritis: getting the facts straight about methotrexate.
The free webinar, to be hosted on 12 April, 7:00–8:00 pm  AEST, was co-designed with the Australian Rheumatology Association and will feature an interdisciplinary discussion about why early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for improved health outcomes in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Panel members are Dr Mona Marabani, Dr David Liew, Associate Professor Morton Rawlin and Jarrod McMaugh.