Objective: To assess the efficacy of topical Tripterygium wilfordii (TW), a Chinese herbal therapy, in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: A 6 week randomized double blind placebo controlled study of 61 patients with RA meeting American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria was conducted in China. The primary outcome was a modified ACR-20 response rate, analyzed by logistic regression analysis.
Results: The modified ACR-20 response rate differed significantly (topical TW 58% vs placebo 20%; p = 0.002). There was an 8.1-fold (95% CI 1.9-35.4) increase in the modified ACR-20 response for the TW compared to the placebo group, adjusted for age and erythrocyte sedimentation rate.
Conclusion: Topical TW appears efficacious for the treatment of RA, but larger studies are needed.