Objective: To investigate whether cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) administered early in the course of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has long-term effects on health care use.
Methods: We reviewed the files of 47 of the original 53 patients with early RA who volunteered for a randomized controlled trial comparing CBT with no psychological intervention. Occasions of service provision associated with RA were documented and health care use was compared between groups.
Results: The CBT group used fewer health care resources than the control group in the 5 years following intervention. Significant differences were observed for the number of inpatient nights, physiotherapy referrals, injections, and for total health care use. There was a trend that closely approached significance toward fewer episodes of surgery and orthopedic referrals in the CBT group.
Conclusion: These results suggest that CBT administered early in the course of RA can reduce health care use for the first 5 years after treatment. This is a stringent test of the efficacy of a brief psychological intervention, and supports the fact that brief psychological treatments can have long-term effects.