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Chinese Herbal Medicine Equally Effective As Methotrexate for Arthritis

June 3, 2014

New research reveals that a Chinese herbal medicine, Triptergium wilfordii, is just as effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis as methotrexate, the most commonly used treatment.

arthritisA study published in the British Medical Journal showed that a Chinese herb called Triptergium wilfordii (TwHF) could be a promising approach to the treatment of active rheumatoid arthritis. The study investigated the effects of the TwHF and methotrexate, a disease modifying drug (DMARD) most commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The purpose of the study was to find the most effective approach to sufficiently alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by reaching an ACR 50 response, a measurement which indicates a 50% improvement in the number of tender or swollen joints and other criteria including pain, disability, and doctor’s assessment of disease severity. The study randomly assigned 207 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis to one of three treatments groups: methotrexate 12.5 mg one a week; or TwHF 20 mg three times a day; or a combination of two over a period of 24 weeks. Most of the participants (174:84%) completed the full 24 weeks of the trial. The portion of the patients achieving ACR 50 and who were treated with methotrexate alone was almost 46.5%; 55% in those treated only with TwHF; and just under 77% in those treated with both therapies. While the researchers caution that 24 weeks is too short of a time to evaluate disease progression and that the dose of methotrexate used in the trial is lower than that typically given to patients in the West, this study nevertheless emphasized the value of TwHF in treating rheumatoid arthritis, since not all patients respond to DMARDs.


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