The earlier, the better or the worse? Towards accurate management of patients with arthralgia at risk for RA.
The favourable long-term results of early treatment in patients with classified rheumatoid arthritis have resulted in an increasing interest in the diseases phases preceding clinical arthritis. The hypothesis to test is that an intervention in these early phases may better prevent or reduce disease persistence than an intervention when arthritis has become clinically manifest. While several placebo-controlled trials are still ongoing, to date there is no firm evidence that this hypothesis truly holds. Therefore, it is important to reflect on the current status of arthralgia preceding clinical arthritis. Inherent to every new field of research, attitudes are conflicting, with opinions propagating innovation (based on the fear of undertreatment) on the one hand, and critical sounds pleading for more restraint (fear of overtreatment) on the other hand. In this Viewpoint, we will examine these divergent opinions, relate them to a preferred ultimate scenario and provide considerations for future studies and daily practice.