In 2008, aged 21 Emma was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Currently, she is on a combination therapy that includes Sulfasalazine, Methotrexate and Naproxen as a painkiller and a new biological drug called Cimzia (certolizumab pegol). The plan is to eventually reduce her RA medication to Methotraxate and Cimzia only.
Emma was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) aged 21 and put on Salazopyrin (generic name; Sulfasalazine) and painkillers. She experienced very bad side effects from her RA treatment’ severe sickness and feelings of nausea, but she tried to cope without taking anti-sickness tablets. So, as she said; she grin-and-bear; the side -effects. Unfortunately, her treatment did not work and she was offered a combination therapy that included Sulfasalazine, Methotrexate, Hydroxychloroquine and Naproxen as a painkiller.
Emma stayed on the combination therapy for about a year and a half. She accepted her treatment and knew how to take the tablets properly. As a nurse, she understood the benefits of her treatment, but was also aware of its side -effects. Her main side effects were feeling of nausea, because of the Methotrexate, and she was more prone to colds and coughs due to a weaker immune system. But she knew that missing her treatment always resulted in pain and stiffness the next day.
The level of care she initially received in her local hospital was disappointing. To start with, she was put on the combination treatment and asked to go back in a year’s time plus there were no RA specialists. Her GP, worried about the poor level of care she was receiving referred her to a specialised rheumatoid hospital. At her first appointment Emma underwent lot of tests and the specialist consultant did the counting of inflamed and painful joints. It was established that her RA continued to be active despite the combination therapy. Until then, Emma had experienced pain on an daily basis but flare ups where less frequents. The RA specialist asked Emma to consider adding to her existing treatment, a new biological therapy; Cimzia (certozilumab pegol). At that time, Cimzia had not yet been licensed for the lower body joints and was in clinical trials for upper body joints. Emma’s RA mainly affected her feet and toes and sometimes her knees. Her consultant wrote to the manufacturers explaining her situation, emphasising her age and they agreed for her to use Cimzia. The next step was for her consultant to write (several times) to the PCT until finally, they agreed to fund the new therapy for her.
Emma was given lots of information about Cimzia, and asked to consider its shortcomings before agreeing to using it, in particular, the potential effect on her fertility. Moreover, given its newest in the market, little is known about the long term effect of Cimzia. Emma decided to give it a go in the hope of improving her pain level and her overall quality of life. The thought of not knowing what may happen in the future, however, was described by Emma as quite daunting; but her attitude is not to worry now about what may happen in the future.
Emma has developed a heart condition, Sinus Ventricular Tachycardia (SVT), which is an irregular heart rhythm, that resulted from using Cimzia. She is having a procedure to correct the SVT and she will continue using Cimzia. The biological therapy is working very well for Emma and is enabling her to go about her daily activities most of the time pain-free and with almost no flare ups.
Her RA resulted in her no longer being able to run or walk quickly but recently she participated in a sponsored Walk for life; event. Something she would not have imagined before Cimzia.
Emma admits that RA has impacted an awful lot in her life but she has a very supportive partner and family and their understanding and emotional help have helped her cope better with her condition.