Breakthrough for arthritis treatment

A pioneering inflammation therapy offers new hope for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, it was announced yesterday. Researchers from 11 European countries, led by Barry Bresnihan, Professor of Rheumatology at University College, Dublin, have developed a naturally occurring chemical messenger made by the body so that it can be used as a treatment.

The chemical, Interleukin-1ra (IL-1ra), regulates another messenger, IL-1, which promotes inflammation and the destruction of cartilage and bone.

A six-month trial has now been completed involving 472 arthritis sufferers at 41 hospitals in 11 countries. They were split up into groups and given different amounts of IL-1ra.

Those given the maximum 150mgs-a-day dose showed a significant improvement over the placebo group at 24 weeks. In addition they experienced a slowing in the rate of damage to the joints. The trial was continued for a further six months and improvement was maintained throughout the one-year follow- up period. No important adverse effects were reported.

The findings were reported at the annual meeting of the British Society for Rheumatology in Harrogate.