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OBJECTIVE: RA has a substantial impact on both patients and healthcare systems. Our objective is to advance the understanding of modern management principles in light of recent evidence concerning the condition's diagnosis and treatment. METHODS: A group of practicing UK rheumatologists formulated contemporary management principles and clinical practice recommendations concerning both diagnosis and treatment. Areas of clinical uncertainty were documented, leading to research recommendations. RESULTS: A fundamental concept governing treatment of RA is minimization of cumulative inflammation, referred to as the inflammation-time area under the curve (AUC). To achieve this, four core principles of management were identified: (i) detect and refer patients early, even if the diagnosis is uncertain: patients should be referred at the first suspicion of persistent inflammatory polyarthritis and rheumatology departments should provide rapid access to a diagnostic and prognostic service; (ii) treat RA immediately: optimizing outcomes with conventional DMARDs and biologics requires that effective treatment be started early-ideally within 3 months of symptom onset; (iii) tight control of inflammation in RA improves outcome: frequent assessments and an objective protocol should be used to make treatment changes that maintain low-disease activity/remission at an agreed target; (iv) consider the risk-benefit ratio and tailor treatment to each patient: differing patient, disease and drug characteristics require long-term monitoring of risks and benefits with adaptations of treatments to suit individual circumstances. CONCLUSION: These principles focus on effective control of the inflammatory process in RA, but optimal uptake may require changes in service provision to accommodate appropriate care pathways.

Original publication




Journal article


Rheumatology (oxford)

Publication Date





765 - 772


Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal, Antirheumatic Agents, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Clinical Protocols, Consensus, Early Diagnosis, Humans, Patient-Centered Care, Rheumatology, Risk Assessment, United Kingdom