Professor Philip Conaghan is working tirelessly to find better ways to manage the pain of arthritis. He’s running clinical trials to investigate whether existing drugs for other conditions can be repurposed to target the pain of osteoarthritis.
His PROMOTE trial, which we funded, was announced just before National Arthritis Week 2013, and Professor Conaghan and his team at the Leeds Institute of Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Medicine have had a busy couple of years.
The aim of this trial is to investigate whether a drug called methotrexate, which is commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, can be used to treat osteoarthritis.
Methotrexate has been the gold-standard treatment for rheumatoid arthritis for decades. It works by dampening down the over-activity of the immune system which causes joint inflammation.
But more recently, studies have suggested that inflammation is also important in causing pain in osteoarthritis.
Professor Conaghan’s current trial follows his pilot study, which we also funded, which showed that 37% of patients with knee osteoarthritis who took methotrexate had a 40% reduction in their pain.
The team are currently in the process of recruiting participants who have moderate to severe osteoarthritis knee pain, who aren’t benefitting from traditional treatments such as painkillers.
Half of those recruited will take methotrexate for 12 months and the other half will take a placebo tablet. All patients will have an MRI image taken of their knee and will fill in questionnaires every three months.
While the results of the trial won’t be available for some time, the importance of the study can’t be underestimated. With the number of people being affected by osteoarthritis increasing and the condition accounting for more than a third of chronic moderate to severe pain in the UK, trials like this are invaluable. Dr Tom Margham explains:
“We currently don’t have effective drug treatments for osteoarthritis, and as a result, people often live with severe pain and find day-to-day activities difficult.
“Trials that get us a step closer to new drug treatments are really important – they could transform lives.”
We’re also funding another trial run by Professor Conaghan. This trial will test the effectiveness of another drug commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, hydroxychloroquine, on osteoarthritis of the hand.
If successful, these trials could offer new therapies for people living with pain.
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