Those who suffer from arthritis are no stranger to pain, restricted movement or inflammation, however a study led by Professor Jo Edwards at University College London has found that a new type of injection may significantly improve their quality of life.

The new drug, called Rituximab, saw some sufferers return to near normal after 20 years of restricted activity caused by arthritis, with British doctors claiming it could eventually lead to a cure for the disease.

Currently used for cancer sufferers, Rituximab acts by suppressing antibody production within the immune system and breaking a key party of the cycle that triggers arthritic inflammation.

The study, comprised of 161 patients who had previously tried many standard treatments without any success, saw a 50 per cent improvement in arthritic symptoms that lasted for a year on average. The most promising results however, were seen when the drug was combined with another anti-arthritis drug called methotrexate.

“Patients have been able to return to work and in some cases have taken up more strenuous activities such as sport, going to the gym and joining walking clubs,” said Professor Edwards. He advised that further testing is required before manufacturers would have sufficient data to apply for a license for use in rheumatoid arthritis, which could take up to three years.

The use of Rituximab would mean that those suffering with the disease could simply receive one dose of the injection each year rather than regularly ingesting powerful anti-inflammatory drugs each day to cope with the pain.

Although the drug shows promise as a future treatment for severe arthritis, a course of the treatment is estimated to cost around £4,000 (around $7,800).

A similar study currently being conducted by a research team at Monash University in Melbourne, has discovered that an injection of bisphosphonates taken once a year could prove to be a simpler and more effective treatment.

Most commonly used to treat osteoporosis, patients usually swallow bisphosphonates once a day, however this method of treatment often causes inflammation in the gullet. Rather than being swallowed, the breakthrough injection would could around £250 per year, with researchers advising that if effective, will be a completely new treatment for slowing the progress of osteoarthritis.

Arthritis expert Professor Robert Moots of Liverpool University said that it was too early to conclude whether or not bisphosphonates would be a major breakthrough in the treatment of arthritis.

“There have been very conflicting results so far. I would be surprised if [bisphosphonates] did turn out to be an effective treatment but I’d also be thrilled, as there is a real need for one. As yet, we have nothing that can reverse the condition,” he said.


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