MADRID (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Pain is common in patients with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and can be disruptive to their lives and jobs, even among those whose inflammatory symptoms have been treated with biologic drugs for 3 months or longer, according to findings from a multinational survey.

At the European Congress of Rheumatology, Dr. Philip G. Conaghan of the University of Leeds (England) presented findings from the survey of 782 consecutive PsA patients from 13 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas, as well as Australia. All patients included in the analysis were on biologic agents – mainly tumor necrosis factor inhibitors – for at least 90 days.

About one-third of the cohort reported little pain or mild pain, 30% reported moderate pain, and the rest – 37% of the cohort – reported severe pain despite treatment with biologic agents.

In an interview. Dr. Conaghan said that it’s important for clinicians not to assume that pain in a PsA patient on a biologic means that the drug is not working.

“The main limitation of our study is that we haven’t worked out how well-controlled patients’ psoriatic arthritis is, so, although we know they’re on a biologic for more than 3 months, we don’t know if they were responding well to it.” But, even in the absence of systemic inflammation, he said, there are other potential causes for pain that should not be overlooked.

“There’s no reason why PsA patients wouldn’t have pain due to tendinitis, enthesitis, and osteoarthritis – the same mechanical-type joint pain that we see in the whole community of people over 40,” Dr. Conaghan said. “I am concerned that, once we give someone a label of inflammatory arthritis, we stop looking at all the other things that can happen to their musculoskeletal system.”

Moreover, he said, “people who’ve had arthritis severe enough to need a biologic treatment will have muscle deconditioning and weakness. It’s very common that PsA patients have trouble opening jars and getting out of chairs.”

Such weakness “can lead to mechanical joint pain, which fortunately can be improved – along with the pain – through muscle strengthening and rehabilitation.”

For their study, Dr. Conaghan and his colleagues collected information from clinicians on treatment and from patients. The questionnaires incorporated several measures of disability, pain, functional impairment, and health-related quality of life that have been validated for use in PsA patients.

Severe pain was significantly associated with increased use of prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids, as well as nonprescription pain medication. Patients 65 years and older had a significantly greater likelihood of being unemployed or retired because of PsA if they reported severe pain, compared with those reporting mild or moderate pain.

A number of quality of life and work-related measures were also associated with pain severity. Dr. Conaghan and his colleagues found that the risk of disability increased with bodily pain, and more severe pain was associated with greater activity impairment, worse social functioning, more work impairment, and work time missed, among other measures (P less than .0001 for all).

“What we saw is that, the more pain you have, the more your world shrinks in,” Dr. Conaghan said.

Dr. Conaghan reported financial relationships with AbbVie, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Roche. Some of his study coauthors have similar disclosures. Four coauthors are employees of Novartis.


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