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Br J Rheumatol. 1993 Jul;32(7):614-7.

The long-term use of D-penicillamine for treating rheumatoid arthritis: is continuous therapy necessary?

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Department of Rheumatology, Whipps Cross Hospital, London.


Patients with RA often fail to comply with their therapy. We investigated the extent of non-compliance with D-penicillamine therapy and also whether patients needed continuous treatment after they had shown a therapeutic response. We developed a simple urinary test, measuring cysteine-penicillamine mixed disulphide by a high performance liquid chromatography technique, as an indicator of compliance. Using this method we evaluated compliance in 59 consecutive RA patients attending rheumatology outpatients for monitoring of D-penicillamine therapy. Evidence of poor compliance was shown in 39%. There was no relationship between poor compliance and disease activity. A possible explanation for this paradox emerged from a therapeutic study of the efficacy of intermittent treatment in patients in partial clinical remission on long-term D-penicillamine. In 14 randomly selected patients the daily dose of D-penicillamine was reduced in frequency over 6 months from 250-750 mg daily to the same dose taken 1 week out of every 4. The patients were compared to matched controls who remained on continuous therapy. After 30 months both the intermittent and continuous therapy groups had similar clinical and laboratory scores for disease activity. Our results suggest that many patients may not comply with their prescribed D-penicillamine regime, but such variation in compliance may not be clinically important since intermittent treatment may sustain response in the longer term.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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