The Chinese Herbal Remedy Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151:I-36. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-151-4-200908180-00002
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(4):I-36.
In rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation causes painful, swollen joints. Rheumatoid arthritis most often affects the small joints of the hands and feet but may develop in any joint. In addition to being painful, rheumatoid arthritis can destroy joints. About 1 of 10 persons with rheumatoid arthritis become disabled from joint destruction. No cure exists for rheumatoid arthritis, but the symptoms can be treated. Drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis include anti-inflammatory drugs, such as prednisone or sulfasalazine, and powerful drugs called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.
Because rheumatoid arthritis drugs have side effects and do not always completely relieve symptoms, many patients try alternative treatments, such as herbal therapies. In traditional Chinese medicine, extracts of the roots of the medicinal vine Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF) (known as lei gong teng or thunder god vine) have shown promise in treating inflammatory conditions. The results of small studies suggest that TwHF may have some benefit in inflammatory conditions.
To see whether treatment with TwHF can help patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
121 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers randomly assigned patients to take either TwHF root extract, 60 mg 3 times per day, or sulfasalazine, 1 g twice per day, for 24 weeks. The researchers used a measure of joint involvement at 24 weeks to judge how well the treatments worked and also evaluated other outcomes, including side effects.
At 24 weeks, more patients in the TwHF group than in the sulfasalazine group met the criteria for improvement in joint symptoms. Other outcomes suggested that patients receiving TwHF did better than those receiving sulfasalazine. Side effects occurred with similar frequency in both groups.
Many patients withdrew before the study was finished. The study was too short to show whether TwHF also helped to prevent joint destruction.
The extract of the roots of TwHF seems effective in treating patients with active rheumatoid arthritis and may offer an alternative treatment approach.
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Rheumatology, Rheumatoid Arthritis.
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