Are there any new drugs to help slow down the deterioration of cartilage?
Q) I've suffered from multiple-joint osteoarthritis since the age of 34 and am currently prescribed slow-release diclofenac and co-codamol. Are there any potential drug therapies currently at early stage of development that might eventually lead to slowing down or even reversing the deterioration of cartilage in relatively young sufferers such as myself, or is there still relatively limited understanding of the processes that lead to this condition?
Paul Osbond, East Hunsbury, Northants (Winter 2008)
A) There are a number of drugs under development but none very close to appearing on the market. These drugs are designed to target the enzymes which cause the destruction of the gristle (cartilage) which allows the joint to move freely without pain. Additionally, in some cases of osteoarthritis there's a signiﬁcant amount of inﬂammation in the membrane which lines the joint, rather like the process which occurs in rheumatoid arthritis. When there's a signiﬁcant amount of inﬂammation some beneﬁt may be obtained by taking some of the drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis such as hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine. These drugs are usually only required for relatively short periods of time, rather than the long-term use in rheumatoid arthritis. I would stress, however, that these drugs are needed in only a very small proportion of people with osteoarthritis.