To perform a systematic literature review (SLR) analysing all studies that reported on the efficacy and safety of pharmacological treatments for palindromic rheumatism (PR).
We performed a SLR using PubMed, Embase and Cochrane databases. Three main aspects of PR were considered: treating flares, preventing recurrence of flares (i.e. achieving remission), and preventing progression to RA or to other persistent arthritis. Quality assessment of the studies was performed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS).
Twenty-seven articles met the inclusion criteria: 6 (22.2%) retrospective studies, 8 (29.6%) longitudinal studies, and 13 (48.1%) case series/case reports. No randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were found. Most of the studies (21/27, 77.7%) had a high risk of bias according to NOS. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were the most commonly reported treatments for flares of PR, with variable results. Anti-malarials, such as hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine phosphate, showed efficacy in reducing the frequency of the flares and, to a lesser extent, in preventing progression to RA. There was minimal evidence in support of other conventional/biological disease modifying anti-rheumatic treatments, or corticosteroids.
Although a frequent clinical dilemma for rheumatologists, the pharmacological management of PR has not been thoroughly evaluated, with no RCTs reported. Of all therapies, antimalarials have been the best studied and may be capable of reducing the recurrence of flares. The optimum treatment strategy for PR remains largely undefined and should be evaluated by robust RCTs in well-defined PR cohorts.
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