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J Prim Care Community Health. 2012 Oct 1;3(4):272-7. doi: 10.1177/2150131912442388. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

Patterns of arthritis medication use in a community sample.

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Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA.



Although arthritis is disabling, highly prevalent, and often treated without health professional input, little is known about the treatments selected by affected individuals. Such information is important because of the toxicity associated with some arthritis treatments.


To describe the pattern of drug treatment use in a sample of persons with arthritis.


The authors distributed an 11-item survey to veterans attending veterans' organization post meetings in southeastern Wisconsin during November and December 2009. Of 32 posts, 26 (81%) returned surveys from 446 persons; survey count and attendance figures suggest that the majority of attendees completed surveys at participating posts. Most respondents were older (75% aged 60 years or older) men (90%). Respondents with arthritis reported whether they had used each of seven drug therapies in the past year.


Almost all members of participating posts responded to the survey, increasing the likelihood that this was a representative sample. Most respondents (290 of 446, 65%) reported having arthritis, which impaired function in 78.6% of them. Most of those with arthritis (252 of 290, 86.9%) had used at least one drug treatment for arthritis in the last year. Acetaminophen use (41.0%) and use of an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (42.1%) were common. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use did not decrease with older age or increase with greater functional impairment.


Self-medication for arthritis is common and often does not follow clinical guidelines. Efforts to improve the quality of osteoarthritis care that focus solely on health care providers are unlikely to ensure optimal osteoarthritis care.


community health; drug therapy; functional impact; osteoarthritis; prevention; self-management

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