Personalised prevention and early treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

The challenge

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic and debilitating condition that affects over five million people in Europe.[1] RA requires a lifelong and expensive treatment, costing Europe approximately 45 billion euros each year.[2] Patients with the condition often experience pain and comorbidities that influence their daily social and working lives.

Prevention and early curative treatment for RA is the ultimate solution for patients and society. But the current organisation of healthcare in Europe rarely enables prevention or adequate early treatment.

The solution

DigiPrevent takes a realistic and feasible approach to personalised prevention in RA, combined with much earlier treatment if arthritis ensues. The main expected improvement will be for individuals at risk and those with early signs of arthritis. They will receive prompt treatment that may lead to drug-free remission.

The solution includes two components. The first is a new digital screening procedure, Rheumatic. This is a web-based tool developed through the EIT Health-supported project, JPAST. It estimates the risk for disease development based on patients’ own description of their musculoskeletal problems using evidence-based algorithms.

The second is a blood-based diagnostic tool, Rheuma-multiplex. These combined multiplex antibody and genetics tests can define the specific risk for RA for individuals who have passed a certain RA risk level score in Rheumatic.

Expected impact

The DigiPrevent team will work with patients and patient organisations, healthcare providers and payors to validate and implement the system and tools for transformation of healthcare, using a stepwise implementation strategy.

Their aim is to develop reimbursement models, with payment from payors striving to implement prevention in their reimbursement systems. In parallel, DigiPrevent aims to receive a CE marking for their digital tools and will work with regulators to generate of guidelines for therapeutic development aimed at prevention of RA.

DigiPrevent calculates that there is a potential for reduction of cases of chronic RA by an estimate of 20-50%, based on today’s knowledge of modifiable lifestyle factors and effects of existing therapies in individuals at very high risk of developing RA.[3][4] This has the potential to save €9 billion annually if the team’s solutions are implemented all over Europe (the estimation of total current yearly costs for RA in Europe is €45 billion).[5][6]

External Partners
  • Coöperatie VGZ
  • Elsa Science
  • Stichting ReumaNederland

[1] Neovius, M., et. al. (2011). Nationwide prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis and penetration of disease-modifying drugs in Sweden. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 70(4):624-629.

[2]  Galloway, J., et. al. (2020). The impact of disease severity and duration on cost, early retirement and ability to work in rheumatoid arthritis in Europe: an economic modelling study. Rheumatology Advances in Practice, 4(2).

[3] Zaccardelli, A., et al. (2019). Potential of Lifestyle Changes for Reducing the Risk of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis: Is an Ounce of Prevention Worth a Pound of Cure? Clinical Therapeutics. 41(7):1323–1345. 1

[4] Rech, J., et al. (2021). Abatacept Reverses Subclinical Arthritis in Patients with High-risk to Develop Rheumatoid Arthritis -results from the Randomised, Placebo-controlled ARIAA Study in RA-at Risk Patients. Arthritis Rheumatol.  73(10).

[5] Galloway J., et al. (2020). The impact of disease severity and duration on cost, early retirement and ability to work in rheumatoid arthritis in Europe: an economic modelling study. Rheumatology Advances in Practice. 4(2).

[6] Eriksson, J., et al. (2015). Costs for hospital care, drugs and lost work days in incident and prevalent rheumatoid arthritis: how large, and how are they distributed? Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 74(4):648-54.


Lars Klareskog
| Senior Professor in Rheumatology | Karolinska Institutet
Martina Johannesson
| Scientific coordinator | Karolinska Institutet