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New Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug Shows Promise

Abatacept beat placebo in phase III trial

MONDAY, June 19, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- An alternative drug for rheumatoid arthritis may help reduce symptoms in patients who don't respond to standard treatment, a new study shows.

The 652 patients in the one-year, phase III study took an older medication, methotrexate, to treat their rheumatoid arthritis, plus either the new drug, abatacept, or a placebo. All of the patients had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis for at least nine years and had not responded well to methotrexate alone prior to the trial.

Although the patients also taking abatacept did experience a higher rate of infection -- 2.5 percent compared to 0.9 percent in those taking methotrexate alone -- the new drug did appear to improve mobility and decrease joint damage caused by the disease.

An editorial that accompanied the trial results, published in the June 20 Annals of Internal Medicine, cautions that these types of trials require that the new drug being tested be compared only to a placebo, instead of another drug used to treat the condition. These trials are required by the FDA before a drug can be considered for approval. The editorial also urges that use of abatecept be carefully observed until the treatment can be further evaluated.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation can help you learn more about rheumatoid arthritis.

SOURCES: Annals of Internal Medicine, news release, June 19, 2006
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