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New Report Recommends Depression Screening For Patients With Severe RA

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Screening for depression should become routine for doctors treating people with severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to researchers from the University of Manchester. They made this recommendation after study results suggested that severe RA leads to higher levels of depression and anxiety than previously believed.

The research team set out to explore the role played by psychological factors in the outcome of biological therapy. Over the past decade, such therapies have transformed treatment for RA patients but the drugs do not produce adequate results in some people. This could be due to the impact of psychological factors. The findings of the study, which was sponsored by Arthritis Research UK, have been published in the Arthritis Care and Research journal.

The researchers based their conclusions on the observation of 322 subjects suffering from severe RA and scheduled to undergo biological therapy. The key objective was to determine how psychological factors affected different parts of a disease measure known as DAS28. The score is based on both objective and subjective measures. The first group includes information such as number of swollen joints and inflammation levels, while the second covers patient-provided information about the way they feel.

The analysis of the results showed that the responses submitted by the patients were more likely to be affected by psychological factors like mood, perceptions about the disease and beliefs about the therapies used. Commenting on the findings, lead report author Dr Lis Cordingley pointed out this was the first time such factors had been taken into consideration and the results suggested that depression screening should become standard for RA patients. If depression is not treated, the DAS28 score may fail to meet expectations and doctors could end up concluding that the biological therapy is not effective, Cordingley said.