Clinical trials of a drug for rheumatoid arthritis prove four times more successful for patients than the most widely prescribed alternative.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This is when your immune system, which usually fights infection, attacks the cells that line your joints, making them swollen, stiff and painful. Of those newly diagnosed, around half will be unable to work within 10 years.
A new drug for rheumatoid arthritis proved successful in clinical trials
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, so treatment is focused on controlling the progression of the disease and its symptoms.
The leading treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is methotrexate (MTX). However, about a third of patients cannot take it die to unbearable side effects like vomiting, hair loss and mouth ulcers. These patients move onto other drugs called anti-TNFs. The most common of these is adalimumab (Humira).
In the latest trial, scientists compared new anti-TNF drug tocilizumab, marketed as RoActemra, with Humira on 326 patients unable to tolerate MTX. They found that RoActemra was almost four times as likely to halt the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, and achieved a greater reduction in symptoms after six months.
Scientists presented their findings in Berlin at Eular- the annual meeting of the European Congress of Rheumatology. Professor John Isaacs, a rheumatology expert from the University of Newcastle, said: "These results are very important and exciting.
"For the tens of thousands of patients in the UK that can't take methotrexate, RoActemra will offer them an increased chance of remission, which is the ultimate goal of rheumatoid arthritis treatment."
"This study is the first time a treatment has gone 'head to head' with an anti-TNF in this setting, and to show a significant increase in patients achieving remission is very impressive."
At £9,500 per patient per year, RoActemra costs about the same as Humira. NICE has already approved RoActemra when combined with MTX, but the new results may lead to the drug being given to more patients on its own.
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