Objective: To evaluate safety and clinical efficacy of a plant extract from the pentacyclic chemotype of Uncaria tomentosa (UT) in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Forty patients undergoing sulfasalazine or hydroxychloroquine treatment were enrolled in a randomized 52 week, 2 phase study. During the first phase (24 weeks, double blind, placebo controlled), patients were treated with UT extract or placebo. In the second phase (28 weeks) all patients received the plant extract.
Results: Twenty-four weeks of treatment with the UT extract resulted in a reduction of the number of painful joints compared to placebo (by 53.2% vs 24.1%; p = 0.044). Patients receiving the UT extract only during the second phase experienced a reduction in the number of painful (p = 0.003) and swollen joints (p = 0.007) and the Ritchie Index (p = 0.004) compared to the values after 24 weeks of placebo. Only minor side effects were observed.
Conclusion: This small preliminary study demonstrates relative safety and modest benefit to the tender joint count of a highly purified extract from the pentacyclic chemotype of UT in patients with active RA taking sulfasalazine or hydroxychloroquine.