By LEON WATSON
A powerful new drug that could bring relief to hundreds of thousands of Britons crippled by rheumatoid arthritis is being developed.
Patients taking the pill, tofacitinib, suffered less pain and inflammation than those on today’s best treatments.
Scientists say it was also more effective at slowing damage to joints after results of an ongoing clinical trial of nearly 1,000 sufferers showed the pill is ‘superior’ to the common treatment methotrexate, or MTX.
Fresh hope: Patients taking the pill, tofacitinib, suffered less pain and inflammation than those on today’s best treatments
Tofacitinib targets pathways in the cells that regulate inflammation. And, unlike many treatments for rheumatoid arthritis – which affects around 400,000 Britons – it can be taken orally instead of by injection.
Half of those on the trial had fewer symptoms than those on MTX and displayed less joint damage.
Judith Brodie, chief executive of UK charity Arthritis Care, told the Daily Express: ‘This looks very promising. Anything that can make a difference to people with rheumatoid arthritis is hugely important.’
The disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints, can strike at a young age, unlike the more common osteoarthritis, which mainly strikes older people.
It usually affects hands and feet, although any of the body’s joints can become inflamed and painful.
It can also lead to crippling flare-ups.
(File picture) Rheumatoid arthritis is less common than osteoarthritis, which affects around 8.5 million Britons
Tofacitinib, still in the developmental stage, belongs to a new group of drugs called Janus kinases, which can be used to treat adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.
The current more common treatment involves painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs which tackle the pain and swelling.
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or DMARDS – of which methotrexate is the most common – are used to slow down the progression of the disease and joint damage.
Tofacitinib is being reviewed by regulators in the U.S., Europe and Japan. If approved, it would become the first new-generation inhibitor treatment drug on the market.
A spokesman for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which has developed the drug, said: ‘Tofacitinib is a novel, oral small molecule Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor that is being investigated as an immunomodulator and disease-modifying therapy for rheumatoid arthritis.
‘Tofacitinib is currently under review by several regulatory agencies around the world, including in the European Medicines Agency.’
Rheumatoid arthritis is less common than osteoarthritis, which affects around 8.5 million Britons.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition associated with age, treated by exercise and painkillers.