The American College of Rheumatology has released revised classification criteria for rheumatoid arthritis. The College hopes the new system will allow the study of treatments for RA at much earlier stages of the disease.

Classification criteria are typically updated as knowledge changes, which is the case with the new RA criteria – published in the College’s journal, Arthritis & Rheumatism. The previous criteria were created in 1987. Since that time, new therapies have emerged that can prevent joint damage in people with RA. With these modern therapies, the goal of treatment is to prevent people from reaching the point where their RA is causing chronic damage to their joints.

"The 1987 criteria actually posed a major barrier to the study of treatments designed to prevent joint damage in RA," explains Gillian Hawker, MD; senior author of the new criteria, in a press release. "Many patients did not fulfill the previous RA classification criteria until their disease was well-advanced, and—in many cases—joint damage had already occurred." This truly limited RA researchers from studying the disease at its earlier phases, which is critical to the development of new treatments to prevent damage."

"To be classified as having ‘definite RA,’ patients must receive a score of six or greater (out of a possible 10)," explains Alan Silman, MD who initiated the project. "The scoring system takes into consideration the number and site/size of involved joints, laboratory tests of inflammation and auto-immunity, and symptom duration."

A study that demonstrates the new classification system, "2010 Rheumatoid Arthritis Classification Criteria: An American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism Collaborative initiative," will be published in the September issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism. The article can be found under the ‘News’ section at

(Source: Press Release)