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Tests find arthritis drug effective

Evidence surrounding a new rheumatoid arthritis treatment will put more pressure on the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to recommend its use, a drug firm has announced.

Six times more patients achieved clinical remission with the new drug tocilizumab, marketed by Roche as RoActemra, than with the standard drug treatment methotrexate (MTX).

Its manufacturers have released the findings of new research, which showed that in combination with MTX, the drug inhibits progression of joint damage in 83% of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients after two years compared to 66% of patients treated with MTX and a placebo.

The research, presented at the annual American College of Rheumatology meeting and featuring 1,190 patients in 15 countries, indicated prolonged use led to better results.

It found 65% of patients on the treatment achieved remission after two years, compared to 48% after just one year.

RA, in which the body's immune system attacks the joints, affects around 646,000 people in the UK, and leaves many severely disabled.

Tocilizumab has been licensed and NICE said it was currently "appraising" the drug, which costs an average £9,300-a-year per patient, but it has not been recommended for NHS use.

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