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Arthritis drug "proves effective"

A new drug to combat the effects of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has proven effective in trials, experts claim.

Tocilizumab (actemra) has been found to cut symptoms in both adults and children.

The new "smart drug" slows down progression of the disease and works best when used in combination with the standard treatment methotrexate, previous studies showed.

Tocilizumab targets the receptors of interleukin-6, a signalling molecule known to stimulate the growth of cells.

The results of the trial, carried out by Professor Josef Smolen from the division of rheumatology at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, have been published in The Lancet medical journal.

The authors said: "These data provide evidence that inhibition of interleukin-6-mediated proinflammatory effects significantly and rapidly improves the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

"Thus tocilizumab could be an effective agent for the treatment of patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis."

RA affects about 350,000 people in the UK, with women more likely to develop the condition than men.

It is an auto-immune disease which causes pain, swelling and inflammation in the joints and can leave people feeling generally unwell and tired.

The Lancet

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