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Researchers hail new arthritis drug

Posted Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:16am AEST

A new drug which is described as a breakthrough in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is expected to be available in Australia within a couple of years.

Tocilizumab has been shown in trials to be three times more effective at halting the progression of the disease than the current standard therapy, methotrexate, resulting in a full remission.

It has also been shown to lead to an improvement in symptoms much sooner than methotrexate.

The drug was developed by pharmaceutical giant Roche in collaboration with Japanese firm Chugai; Hobart's Menzies Research Centre conducted a clinical trial.

Professor Graeme Jones from the Menzies Research Centre presented the findings at the annual meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism in Paris over the weekend.

He says it is a significant breakthrough.

"It doesn't cure arthritis, although I'd regard a remission as being a cure while you're on the treatment, so over a third of patients who are on this treatment will essentially have no symptoms of arthritis," he said.

"In our trial we actually used it in very early arthritis and it seemed to work very well in that situation.

"So what I'd like to see in the longer term is that it is made available for people earlier before damage occurs rather than years down the track when people often have irreversible joint damage."



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