The Mayo Clinic research published in the November issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism, a monthly journal of the American College of Rheumatology was based on extensive data. Medical reports of all residents of Rochester, Minn., aged 18 and older in whom RA was first pinned down between 1955 and 1995, as well as the medical records of Olmstead County, Minn. residents first diagnosed with RA between 1995 and 2000 was studied. The patients were followed up until death or Jan. 1, 2007.
Due to the multiple-time periods, the cases were pooled statistically and analyzed. It was seen that between 1965 and 2005, the death rates for patients with the condition were 2.4 for women and 2.5 for men per 100-person years. This means that when the group members were added together, there were 2.4 and 2.5 deaths, respectively, per 100 person-years. Conversely, the mortality rates of the general population decreased over the same period, from 1.0 per 100 person-years in 1965 to 0.2 per 100 person-years for women, and from 1.2 per 100-person years to 0.3 per 100-person years for men.
"We found no evidence indicating that RA subjects experienced improvements in survival over the last four to five decades," says the study's lead author, Dr. Sherine Gabriel. "In fact, RA subjects did not even experience the same improvements in survival as their peers without arthritis, resulting in a worsening of the relative mortality in more recent years, and a widening of the mortality gap between RA subjects and the general population throughout time", she adds.
The authors believe that novel therapeutic approaches in managing the disease over the last 40 years have not had a significant effect on extending the duration of life in people with RA. The researchers hope the study's findings are able to highlight the need for appropriate intervention strategies that can help curb the "widening mortality gap that increasingly separates RA patients from the rest of the general population".
RA can bring about redness, pain and swelling in the lining of a joint. It can also affect other internal organs, such as the eyes, lungs or heart, says the Arthritis Society of Canada. RA affects one in 100 Canadians.