The quality of health care for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be much improved when specialists like rheumatologists are part of their medical team, according to a new study from the NIAMS-supported Multipurpose Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases Center at the University of California Los Angeles.

The study, carried out by Catherine MacLean, M.D., Ph.D., and her colleagues, examined 1991-1995 insurance company data on 1,354 patients with RA. The investigators concluded that although the quality of this group's care was "suboptimal" for (1) arthritis, (2) associated conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and (3) health maintenance, care improved when a relevant specialist was involved. In addition to rheumatologists, specialists included endocrinologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, and gynecologists.

The study appeared in the August 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases, the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research, and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases.

MacLean C, Louie R, Leake B, McCaffrey D, Paulus H, Brook R, Shekelle P. The quality of care for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. JAMA 2000 284(8):984-92.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), leads the Federal medical research effort in arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases. The NIAMS supports research and research training throughout the United States, as well as on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, and disseminates health and research information. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse is a public service sponsored by the NIAMS that provides health information and information sources. Additional information can be found on the NIAMS Web site at

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