Young RA Patients Choosing Treatment Look to Trusted Source: Mom

Dollarphotoclub_ReassuringHandRA285For young people, a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a lot to handle. Add difficult treatment decisions to the mix, and it’s understandable that many patients are overwhelmed. This is where support from family and friends—in addition to the professionals in your care team—can be invaluable.

Treatment decisions for RA can be especially complicated because agents known as biologics are often involved. Biologics are proteins that are genetically engineered from human genes. They are meant to work by preventing the immune system from causing the inflammation that occurs with RA. While biologics can help slow the progression of RA and prevent long-term disability—even in cases where other treatments have failed—they can also cause serious side effects.

Complications of biologics range from milder reactions (pain and rash at the injection site and flu-like symptoms) to more severe issues associated with immune function. To keep the immune system from causing inflammation, biologics can interfere with overall immune function, which increases risk for other diseases and infections. In addition, biologics can be more expensive than other therapies.

This is a lot for anyone to process—and especially for a young person, who will be coping with RA and treatment and its consequences for many years. Experts are curious about how younger patients (16 to 25 years of age) make decisions about biologics and whom they might turn to for support.

A team of researchers recently interviewed young RA patients about people outside of their care team who helped them make treatment decisions involving biologics. At first the patients claimed that they mostly made these decisions on their own and without support from people other than providers. But when the researchers discussed decision-making with the patients more, patients tended to admit to support from people outside of their care team. Patients reported they looked to their mothers, in particular, for emotional and practical support.

It appears that when it comes to complicated treatment decisions involving biologics, young patients with RA are fairly independent. But they do tend to turn to friends and family for some extra help, and mothers seem to answer the call most often. Even if this decision-making support is limited, it’s important, and providers might keep this in mind as they help young patients choose treatment for RA.

Reference: Hart RI, Foster HE, McDonagh JE, et al. Young People’s Decisions about Biologic Therapies: Who Influences Them and How? Rheumatology [early online publication]. February 2015.