Rheumatoid arthritis prevention in arthralgia: fantasy or reality?

Hanna W. van Steenbergen*, Andrew P. Cope, Annette H.M. van der Helm-van Mil*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The concept of a ‘window of opportunity’ in treating a disease assumes the existence of a time frame during which the trajectory of the disease can be effectively and permanently modified. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), optimal timing of this period is presumed to be during the phase before arthritis is clinically apparent and disease is diagnosed. Several proof-of-concept trials of treatment during the ‘arthralgia’ phase of RA have been completed in the past 4 years, with the underlying notion that temporary treatment at this stage could prevent the development of RA or induce a sustained reduction in the burden of disease. This Review summarizes the results of these trials and reflects on the outcomes in relation to the patients’ perspectives. Overall, the majority of symptomatic at-risk individuals could benefit from a fixed period treatment, even if RA does not develop. Various factors must be taken into consideration when translating these findings into clinical practice. More evidence is needed to target the individuals at highest risk, and additional tools are needed to monitor treatment and guide decisions about whether treatment can be discontinued. Without these tools, there is a paradoxical risk of seemingly increasing the incidence of the disease and prolonging disease duration, which is the opposite of what the concept of intervening in the window of opportunity entails.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-777
Number of pages11
JournalNature reviews rheumatology
Issue number12
Early online date9 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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© 2023, Springer Nature Limited.


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