[Disease-modifying treatment for inflammatory rheumatism in sub-Saharan Africa: outcome at 6 months of 205 Senegalese patients with rheumatoid arthritis]

S Ndongo, A Pouye, F K Lekpa, D M Bihéhé, J Tiendrebeogo, A C Ndao, M M Ka, T Moreira Diop
Médecine et Santé Tropicales 2012, 22 (4): 385-9

RATIONALE: Few data are available on the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in sub-Saharan Africa, where the diagnosis is often substantially delayed. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are more effective when started early. Biotherapies are not available. Given the socioeconomic constraints in sub-Saharan Africa, treatments must be selected based on locally available resources. The objective of this study was to evaluate outcomes 6 months after initiation of conventional DMARDs in Senegalese patients with RA.

METHODS: We retrospectively studied consecutive RA patients seen at the rheumatology outpatient clinic of the Le Dantec Teaching Hospital, Dakar, Senegal, from January 2005 through June 2009. All patients met the ACR criteria for RA. ACR and EULAR response criteria were evaluated 6 months after treatment initiation.

RESULTS: The study included 205 patients. Corticosteroids were used in 205 patients, hydroxychloroquine in 190, methotrexate in 137, and sulfasalazine in 11. Combined corticosteroid, methotrexate, and hydroxychloroquine therapy was used in 122 patients and combined corticosteroid and hydroxychloroquine therapy in 63. DMARD treatment was interrupted for at least 5 days per month for 26% of the patients, either because the drugs were out of stock at the local pharmacies and/or because the patients could not afford to purchase them. During the first 6 months of treatment, patients had a mean of 4 clinic visits, and 48% of patients missed at least one scheduled visit. After 6 months, all clinical variables had improved significantly, except the swollen joint count. The ACR20, 50, and 70 response criteria were met in 50%, 31%, and 6.9% of patients, respectively. The EULAR response was good in 53.9% of patients, moderate in 12.7%, and poor in 23.1%. DMARD therapy failed in 10.3% of patients. Half the patients had their treatment modified during the 6-month study period. DMARD therapy was discontinued in 10 patients for the following reasons: plans to become pregnant, n = 5; pregnancy during treatment, n = 2; and tuberculosis, n = 3.

CONCLUSION: In Senegal, the treatment of RA relies chiefly on variable combinations of methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, and corticosteroids. The six-month outcomes are satisfactory. Biotherapy is required in 7% to 10% of patients, a rate that could be decreased by optimizing patient follow-up. The management of chronic inflammatory joint disease couple be improved despite the limited financial resources in sub-Saharan Africa with better physician training and the incorporation of osteoarticular diseases within a vast information and education program for the general population.

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