Drug test results hold promise for more effective rheumatoid arthritis pain treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful inflammatory condition whose causes and pain symptoms are notoriously hard to treat and manage.

However, based on a presentation at the 2011 European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress, doctors may soon have another therapeutic tool at their disposal, and one that has shown significant promise in recent clinical studies.

Specifically, a Phase III trial of a Janus kinase inhibitor drug called tofacitinib suggested that it brings relief both at 5mg and 10mg doses in patients who previously failed to respond to disease modifying anti-rheumatic disease medications (DMARDs).

The study, which lasted for 12 months, involved nearly 800 patients and showed that more than 36 percent of participants achieved a 50 percent improvement in symptoms (that included tender or swollen joints and pain) and more than 16 percent of the patients reported as much as 70 percent improvement. Both scores where higher than those for the control group treated with a placebo drug.

Other improvements the scientists noted were those related to the Disease Activity Score physician index and the Health Assessment Questionnaire.

Professor Joel Kremer of the Albany Medical College in Albany, New York, said that the speed with which tofacitinib seemed to reduce symptoms was very high.

"We hope that after carefully considering the benefit/risk equation, this compound will provide an additional valuable treatment option for patients who have experienced an inadequate response to prior treatments," he added.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues, and may affect other organs, according to the National Institutes of Health. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that some 1.3 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with it, and women are affected three times more often than men.