Health Headlines: New rheumatoid arthritis test

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Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 8:38 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive autoimmune disease that if left untreated, can attack the joints and internal organs. There are medications that can help block the inflammation, but finding the right therapy is often trial and error. Now, a new diagnostic test can take the guesswork out of prescribing the right medication.

After three decades together, Regina Dickens lost her husband Wayne last year. She says, in big and small ways, they balanced each other.

“My husband was the gripper in the family. He could get the jar lids off.”

Dickens has rheumatoid arthritis. Her immune system is attacking her joints, especially in her hands and fingers.

“This was the most searing pain I think I had ever had.”

Dr. A. Silvia Ross at Triangle Arthritis and Rheumatology says, “Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is aiming at trying to get that immune system to behave again.”

A number of first-line medications, called TNF inhibitor therapies, are designed to block the inflammation. But they’re not fail-proof.

Dr. Ross explains, “The holy grail of rheumatology has been how the heck do you know which drug is gonna work for whom?”

Especially since the drugs often take months to work. But now, a new one-time blood test can give clinicians a better window into the condition. The Prism RA Test uses proteins in a person’s blood to help determine the cause of the RA, and whether TNF inhibitors will work.

“If the blood test says that you are not likely to respond to a TNF inhibitor, I just saved you 16 weeks of treatment that doesn’t work,” says Dr. Ross.

Dickens’ Prism RA Test suggested TNF inhibitors were not a good option, so she’s on a different medication.

“I take an infusion now,” says Dickens.

It’s helping preserve her joints and maintain her independence.

Dr. Ross says the patients are tested with a one-time blood draw and that the Prism RA Test is covered by some insurance companies.