Objective: To observe the effectiveness and safety of external applying Compound Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F. (TwHF) in relieving joint pain in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients.
Methods: In this double-blinded, randomized multicenter trial, a total of 174 moderately active RA patients were enrolled and randomly assigned to the treatment group (treated with Compound TwHF, 87 cases) and the placebo control group (87 cases). Compound TwHF or placebo was externally applied in painful joints, 20 g each time, once per day for 8 weeks. Self-reported joint pain relief was taken as a primary effective indicator. Visual analogue scale for pain (VAS), disease activity score of 28 joints (DAS28), VAS for general health (GH) were evaluated before treatment, at week 4 and after treatment. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and hypersensitive C reactive protein (hs-CRP) were tested before and after treatment. Menstrual changes in females were observed during treatment. Skin irritation occurred during the recording process was assessed using skin irritation strength. Intention to treat (ITT) was statistically analyzed.
Results: The joint pain relief rate in the treatment group was 90.8% (79/87 cases), higher than that in the placebo control group (69.0%, 60/87 cases; P = 0.001). VAS pain score, DAS28, VAS for GH score were significantly improved in the two groups at week 4 of treatment and after treatment, as compared with before treatment (P < 0.01). ESR and hs-CRP levels significantly decreased in the treatment group after treatment (P < 0.05, P < 0.01). No difference was found in post-treatment VAS pain score, DAS28, VAS for GH score, ESR, or hs-CRP between the two groups (P > 0.05). Eight adverse events occurred in the treatment group (5 skin allergy, 1 intolerance of medical odor, and 2 mild liver injury), while 3 adverse events occurred in the placebo control group (2 skin allergy, 1 mild liver injury). There was no statistical difference in adverse event between the two groups (P > 0.05). No menstrual change occurred in the treatment group.
Conclusion: External applying Compound TwHF was an effective and safe way to relieve-joint pain of RA patients, which could be taken as an adjuvant therapy.