Here’s a recent headline that I found confusing: Could the first drug that slows arthritis be here?
It’s confusing because it depends on which of the more than 100 types of arthritis we’re discussing. We’ve had drugs that slow rheumatoid arthritis for decades. In fact, more than a dozen FDA-approved drugs can reduce, or even halt, joint damage in people with rheumatoid arthritis. We also have effective medications to slow or stop gout, another common type of arthritis.
But the headline refers to osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. And currently, no medications can safely and reliably slow the pace of this worsening joint disease. That’s one reason so many knee and hip replacements are performed: more than 1.2 million each year in the US alone.
A drug that can slow down joint degeneration in osteoarthritis has long been the holy grail of arthritis treatments, because it could
- relieve pain and lessen suffering for millions of people
- help prevent the loss of function that accompanies osteoarthritis
- reduce the need for surgery, along with its attendant risks, expense, and time needed for recovery.
And, needless to say, such a drug would generate enormous profits for the pharmaceutical company that comes up with it first.
A study of heart disease might have identified a new treatment for osteoarthritis
According to new research published in Annals of Internal Medicine, it’s possible that such a treatment exists, and is already in use to treat other conditions. The researchers reanalyzed data on more than 10,000 people that originally looked at whether the drug canakinumab was beneficial for people with a previous heart attack — yes, heart attack, not arthritis.
Canakinumab inhibits interleukin-1, a substance closely involved with inflammation. And increasing evidence suggests that inflammation raises risk for cardiovascular disease, and may