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Drugs hope for arthritis sufferers

Scientists believe they have discovered a pioneering treatment to help sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis after testing three cutting-edge "smart" drugs.

The drugs all consist of molecules that target different parts of a patient's immune system.

Two of the drugs, MabThera and Orencia, are licensed in the UK, while the third, tocilizumab, is still undergoing trials.

Researchers who analysed trial data said all three slow progression of the disease and reduce its symptoms.

All achieved the best results when used in combination with the standard treatment methotrexate.

The scientists, led by Professor Josef Smolen, from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, wrote in an online edition of The Lancet: "The emerging agents show that a new era has started in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis."

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful and sometimes crippling autoimmune disease which affects around 400,000 people in the UK, 4,000 of them seriously.

It occurs when the immune system attacks the joints, causing swelling and damage of cartilage and bone.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which issues guidelines on which medicines should be available on the NHS, is now looking at the use of MabThera and Orencia for treating the disease.

Medical University of Vienna


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