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The new blood test taking the guesswork out of rheumatoid arthritis treatment

Finding the right therapy for rheumatoid arthritis is often trial and error. But now, a new blood test can take the guesswork out of prescribing medication.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive autoimmune disease that if untreated, can attack the joints and internal organs. There are medications that can help block the inflammation, but finding the right therapy is often trial and error. Now, a new diagnostic test can take the guesswork out of prescribing medication.

After three decades together, Regina Dickens lost her husband Wayne last year. She says, in big and small ways, they balanced each other.

“My husband was the gripper in the family. He could get the jar lids off,” Dickens says about her late husband.

Dickens has rheumatoid arthritis. Her immune system is attacking her joints, especially in her hands and fingers.

“This was the most searing pain I think I had ever had,” she expresses.

Rheumatologist at Triangle and Rheumatology Associates, Dr. A. Silvia Ross, MD, says, “Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is aiming at trying to get that immune system to behave again.”

Several first-line medications, called TNF inhibitor therapies, are designed to block the inflammation, but they’re not fail-proof.

“The holy grail of rheumatology is figuring out which drug is going to work for whom,” Dr. Ross explains.

Especially since the drugs often take months to work. Now, a new, one-time blood test can give clinicians a better window into the condition. The PrismRA test uses proteins in a person’s blood to help determine the cause of rheumatoid arthritis and whether TNF inhibitors will work.

Dr. Ross further explains, “If the blood test says that you are not likely to respond to a TNF inhibitor, I just saved you 16 weeks of treatment that doesn't work.”

Dickens’ PrismRA test suggested TNF inhibitors were not a good option, so she’s on a different medication – an infusion.

Dr. Ross says the patients are tested with a one-time blood draw. The PrismRA test is covered by some insurance companies. Dr. Ross also says rheumatologists are hoping that Medicare will adopt the test.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Shelby Kluver at shelby.kluver@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

   

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