Revolutionary tablet may stop pain of arthritis for millions (2022)

Osteoarthritis: Elaine reveals her experience of the condition

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The treatment also appears to slow the excruciating condition's progress by halting the destruction of cartilage - the body's shock absorber. If APPA passes all tests it could be on the market within a decade.

It will have the chance to change the lives of millions of sufferers and slash the health service's annual ÂŁ1billion bill for joint replacements.

The researchers' early findings have been seen as so "exciting" the Government is funding part of the project to continue human trials of the drug.

Yesterday, consultant rheumatologist Professor Robert Moots, who is leading a trial of the drug at Liverpool University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, said: "Millions of osteoarthritis patients are suffering every day with severe pain because the current prescription drugs available are often not effective or cannot be used long-term.

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"APPA has the potential to be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis that could not only tackle the pain it causes but do so with excellent tolerability and also, we hope, stop the disease causing further joint damage.

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"If the current human trials are successful, it could not only revolutionise arthritis care but also help reduce the NHS's ÂŁ1billiona-year bill for hip and knee replacement surgery."

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body and causes pain, stiffness, swelling and tenderness. In a healthy joint, a coating of tough but smooth and slippery tissue called cartilage covers the surface of the bones and helps them move against each other without friction. When a person develops the condition, the cartilage breaks down and joints do not move smoothly.

Bony growths, or spurs, can develop and the area may become inflamed. A third of women and a quarter of men between the ages of 45 and 64 have sought treatment for osteoarthritis, according to charity Versus Arthritis.

This rises to almost half of people aged 75 and over. Mark Wilkinson, a spokesman for Versus Arthritis and professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Sheffield, said: "Over eight million people in the UK are living with osteoarthritis, many of them in excruciating pain every day.

Revolutionary tablet may stop pain of arthritis for millions (4)

An X-ray of arthritic hands (Image: Getty)

"The majority of people with the condition manage their symptoms with painkillers, and joint replacements, as currently there are no drugs licensed for the treatment of osteoarthritis. We look forward to seeing the results of the next phase of testing."

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APPA combines two synthetic versions of plant compounds called apocynin and paeonol.

Apocynin comes from a herb that grows in the Himalayas in Nepal and has anti-inflammatory capabilities. It is traditionally used to treat liver and heart problems, jaundice and asthma.

Paeonol is from the peony flower and used in traditional Chinese medicines due to its anti-inflammatory, immune regulatory and anti-tumour effects. David Miles, head of AKL Research & Development, the pharmaceutical company behind the pioneering drug, said: "For the first time it looks like we may have a drug that could halt the progression of the disease. It gives us great hope that many patients could avoid the need for joint replacement surgery." Innovate UK, part of the Government's UK Research and Innovation organisation, has awarded researchers a grant of ÂŁ675,000 to continue testing in a phase two human trial. This will explore how well the treatment works and its short-term effects.

APPA is also being evaluated for the treatment of other inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. It has been in development for six years, and it will take another five to six years for it to be approved for use if further testing goes smoothly.

Case Study

Catherine Manning has been living with severe pain and fatigue caused by arthritis for more than 20 years.

She said: "I was first diagnosed with early onset osteoarthritis in my knees when I was 12 years old.

"It caused excruciating pain, instability of the joint and I could feel the bones grinding on each other.

"It made taking part in any sports painful.

"I needed bilateral knee replacements by the time I was in my late 20s but was told I was too young and needed to wait and had them both replaced when I was 32."

Catherine, now 33, lives in Essex with her husband of 13 years, Paul.

Revolutionary tablet may stop pain of arthritis for millions (5)

Catherine Manning has suffered for 20 years (Image: Daily Express)

Although the couple support one another and communicate well, she said her condition makes intimacy difficult.

On dates, Paul sometimes has to cut up Catherine's food, which can leave her feeling self-conscious.

And her self-esteem has been knocked because the medication and steroids she takes have affected her weight.

Catherine said: "Osteoarthritis has made me feel old before my time and written off, because arthritis is stealing the things I want to do and replacing them with pain, stiffness and disability.

"Arthritis can certainly affect the relationship with your lover.

"I have found it difficult to be spontaneous because of the pain and cancelling date nights can b e disappointing for both myself and Paul.

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"When someone goes from being your lover to your carer, it can put a dampener on things and makes you feel self-conscious." Talking openly about her condition has helped Catherine and Paul support one another.

She said: "Paul is so understanding and it helps that I can tell him when I'm having a bad day and don't want to be touched.

"Without communication, the other person can feel rejected.

"That's why we make time to talk about how we're both feeling and what adjustments we need to make when it comes to being intimate."

Versus Arthritis is campaigning to raise awareness of the impact arthritis can have on relationships and everyday life.

Comment by Wendy Holden

Osteoarthritis is thought to affect 8.75 million people in the UK, causing joint pain and stiffness, and is the leading cause of disability.

It used to be thought of as an inevitable part of ageing due to wear and tear of the cartilage that lines the joints.

(Video) HOW TO TREAT OSTEOARTHRITIS / OA Signs and Symptoms and Management.

The process of osteoarthritis is actually much more complicated than just simple wearing out of the joints.

It is believed to involve inflammation driven partly by the immune system, and in particular certain white blood cells called neutrophils.

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Traditional treatments are essentially limited to painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs including naproxen and ibuprofen but these do not treat the underlying cause.

Promising Anti-inflammatory drugs also have many potentially serious side-effects, including ulcers and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

At the moment there are no drugs that can reverse the effects of arthritis, however, apocynin and paeonol (APPA) are chemicals that come from plants and in animals have been found to work on the neutrophils that cause inflammation.

APPA may be able to treat the cause as well as the effects.

Human trials will be the first step to see if these promising new drugs can reverse what until now has been impossible.

Osteoarthritis commonly affects the small finger joints, thumbs, hips, knees and feet as well as the neck and low back.

Joints are often painful with a limited movement which means it can be difficult to perform simple tasks like turning a key.

Keeping to a healthy weight, exercise, relaxation and reducing stress can all help people with arthritis to better manage their pain.

• Dr WendyHolden isMedical Advisor to Arthritis Action.

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