Understanding long-term outcomes of treatments for polymyalgia rheumatica

Disease - Polymyalgia rheumatica

Lead applicant - Dr Sara Muller

Organisation - Keele University

Type of grant - Health Services Research

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £135,146.30

Start date - 1 March 2018

Reference - 21827

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Polymyalgia rheumatica is a condition that causes painful muscles, particularly leading to pain and stiffness in the thighs, hips and shoulders. Steroid tablets are a treatment option that can help many people with the condition, but they can be needed for as long as two years or more to stop symptoms returning. It is not currently clear who is likely to do well on their treatment and who is likely to have a worse experience. The research aims to use questionnaires to understand when people are more likely to need steroid tablets for longer than expected, and whether they experience any side-effects from their treatment.

Why is this research important?

A better understanding of the long-term effects of polymyalgia rheumatica is essential to help people living with the condition to stay in work and keep active. Although steroid tablets can be effective, it is not clear why some people find it harder than others to stop their steroid treatment. It is also not clear why some people experience worse side-effects. Some of the potential side-effects can be serious, such as diabetes and thinning bones, so it essential to understand the treatments that work best for different people.

The researchers have already gathered information about people’s polymyalgia rheumatica symptoms and treatment by using regular follow up questionnaires for two years. This research will extend this, both by sending people questionnaires in the post for up to six years of follow up, and also by looking at their medical records for up to two years before their diagnosis of polymyalgia rheumatica.

How will the findings benefit patients?

The questionnaires that will be used for this research were developed by researchers working closely with doctors and people who have polymyalgia rheumatica. The information generated by the research will be essential to support people making decisions with their doctors about their treatment. For example, it could make it possible to predict which people are most likely to need longer term treatment and which people are most likely to develop treatment side-effects. This would mean doctors would be able recommend that people see specialist doctors at an earlier stage or suggest alternative treatment options for some people to reduce the number of steroid tablets they need.