New drug slows oesteoarthritis progression

A drug that is prescribed for those with osteoporosis, a brittle-bone disease, has shown promise in slowing down the progression of osteoarthritis, the gradual wearing away of cartilage and bone, a study has revealed.

The new findings showed that Protelos (strontium ranelate) reduced deterioration of knee joint cartilage in a group of arthritis patients by a third over three years, significantly reducing pain and improved day-to-day mobility, the Telegraph reported here.

Cyrus Cooper, professor from Oxford and Southampton Universities, who led the study, said: “This is a major breakthrough. Osteoarthritis is a painful and debilitating condition, and for over 20 years we have been searching for a treatment that would allow us to alter the course of the disease, rather than just manage the symptoms.”

“The results could totally change the way we treat osteoarthritis. For the first time we have a treatment that can slow the development of this debilitating disease and could reduce or even eliminate the need for expensive and painful joint replacement surgery,” said Cooper.

The Phase III trial involved 1,683 mostly female arthritis patients with an average age of 63 years who were randomly treated with either one gram or two gram daily doses of Protelos, or a dummy drug.

Cooper said the drug almost halved the frequency of its progression. Patients who are rapid progressors have a fivefold increased risk of needing joint replacement. “You would expect it might have an impact on joint replacement rates,” said Cooper.

Osteoarthritis affects 630 million people worldwide. Until now, pain management and physiotherapy has been the only available treatment short of surgery.

French manufacturer Servier is understood to be applying for a new licence so it can be used in osteoarthritis as well as osteoporosis. These findings were presented at the European Congress on Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis (ECCEO) in Bordeaux, France.

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