Early treatment 'can ease arthritis agony'

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Thousands of people suffer agonising pain because they fail to get early drug treatment for arthritis, a research charity said yesterday.

Disability results from not seeking help, yet intensive treatment could make a dramatic difference. Professor Paul Dieppe of Bristol University launched a national Arthritis and Rheumatism Council campaign in London yesterday calling on sufferers to urge family doctors and specialists to provide early intensive treatment. He said: 'We used to wait until we could see X-ray evidence of damage; now we know that we can and should get it earlier.' About eight million people in the UK suffer from rheumatic diseases. 'Over half the people who suffer from arthritis have never seen a consultant rheumatologist,' Professor Dieppe said.