NHS rheumatoid arthritis patients are said to benefit from a breakthrough drug that relieves excruciating pain in the joints.
The disease affects 400,000 British people – many of them young adults – who can remain seated in wheelchairs due to the pain and the associated energy-saving exhaustion.
Current treatments are able to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, but rarely completely eliminate symptoms. Some also need to be injected directly into the bloodstream, which must be done by a healthcare professional.
The new medicine Rinvoq is a once-a-day tablet that makes it easier. Clinical studies have also shown it to be remarkably effective. Up to 40 percent of users see their symptoms go away. It also works for those who are hardest hit by the disease.
A new drug called Rinvoq could make symptoms go away in 40 percent of the 400,000 patients in the UK who have rheumatoid arthritis. It could also relieve symptoms of those with the most serious form of the disease
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system turns the body on and attacks cells that line the joints. Why this happens is not clear, but some evidence suggests that even a minor infection can bring the immune system to its knees. It commonly hits teenage or 20-year-old patients, and there seems to be some genetic element with the disease running in families. Women are also more likely to get it.
Despite the £ 10,000 a year price tag for Rinvoq, it has been given the go-ahead in England by the Drug Watchdog, the National Institute for Excellence in Health and Care (NICE), and is offered to patients who have found no relief from other treatments. Experts have called the ruling a major breakthrough, and one of the first patients to benefit from it, who once leaned on a walking stick, says he is now “jumping out of bed” thanks to the pills.
“This is very welcome news,” says Professor Chris Edwards, consultant rheumatologist at the NHS Foundation Trust at University Hospital Southampton. “Rinvoq is able to induce remission of the disease even when the disease has not responded to previous treatments.”
Rinvoq, also known as upadacitinib, is in a new class of tablets known as JAK inhibitors that transform treatments.
The drugs block the action of enzymes known as Janus kinase, which activate the immune response when the body is attacked by invading organisms such as viruses or bacteria. By blocking these enzymes, the drugs prevent the immune system from destroying healthy joint tissue.
A new drug Rinvoq worth £ 10,000 a year could help some of the 400,000 people in the UK who have rheumatoid arthritis