Research Article| Volume 21, ISSUE 9, P1429-1442, September 1999

Early diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis for improved outcomes: Focus on etanercept, a new biologic response modifier

  • Roy M. Fleischmann
    Address correspondence to: Roy M. Fleischmann, MD, Director of Rheumatology, St. Paul Medical Center, 5939 Harry Hines Boulevard, Professional Building, Suite 400, Dallas, TX 75235.
    St. Paul Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
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      Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can improve outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Significant joint damage occurs early in the course of the disease, when RA is most aggressive. Many rheumatologists now advocate an inverted pyramid approach to therapy, in which treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs is initiated on diagnosis. The goals of this approach are to preserve patient function and to slow disease progression. Current therapies exhibit varying degrees of efficacy and cumulative toxicity that frequently limit their usefulness, particularly with long-term use. New biologic response modifiers (BRMs) that target specific cells or cytokines involved in the inflammatory response hold great promise for RA therapy because of their improved efficacy and limited toxicity. The first BRM to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in RA is etanercept, a soluble tumor necrosis factor-receptor fusion protein. Etanercept is highly effective in relieving RA symptoms and has a good safety profile. The availability of welltolerated therapies may encourage clinicians to diagnose and treat RA more promptly, thereby ensuring patients the best possible outcomes.

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