A long-term study is being undertaken to classify drugs used as specific agents in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in terms of their effects on biochemical and clinical characteristics of the disease. In particular is hoped to establish those indices which are most relevant to the response of RA to treatment. Fifteen patients were treated with D-penicillamine after an initial period of 2 weeks on aspirin alone, when the baseline investigations were made. The dose of penicillamine was increased gradually to a maximum of 500 mg a day over the period of 6 months, and changes in 8 clinical and 25 laboratory indices were measured on 8 separate occasions in the 6-month period. Marked clinical improvement took place, and this was mirrored by changes in a wide range of biochemical parametaers. ESR and C-reactive protein were shown to be the most suitable indices of disease improvement with penicillamine treatment.
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