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Rinvoq was approved by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence last week or the estimated 30 percent of RA patients who have severe disease after global trials showed it reversed or dramatically reduced symptoms in six in ten of these cases.
Some patients on the drug even went into remission – effectively curing them of the condition which affects 400,000 people in the UK.
It is now hoped the therapy may also be useful for patients with less severe forms of RA.
The novel drug – which can be used alone or in combination with standard drugs – works inside cells to block signals that cause inflammation caused by an overreaction of the immune system. This inflammation leads to pain, stiffness, loss of function and irreversible joint damage.
The chronic and progressive condition, which can affect adults of any age, can aso lead to fatigue, deadly heart disease, lung disease and fractures.
Professor Chris Edwards, Consultant Rheumatologist and Honorary Chair of Clinical Rheumatology, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said: “This drug looks very effective and the news of the approval is exciting and very welcome. This type of drug offers a completely new way of treating people who up to now we were not able to treat.
“The drug acts as if it is turning down the thermostat of a number of different inflammatory processes thereby blocking the signalling pathway that leads to the inflammation which causes the disease. These drugs can transform people’s lives helping to stop the devastating pain, fatigue and loss of function.”
He added: “When I started working in this field 3 decades ago remission was something we never considered for patients. Now we can aim for this or else aim to get very low disease activity which will not only give people back quality of life but also mean that we can prevent the disease leading to progressive joint and organ damage.”
Clare Jacklin, Chief Executive of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), said: “NRAS welcomes the news that upadacitinib has been approved for treating people living with severe RA. Rheumatoid arthritis is a complex auto-immune condition which can affect people in different ways….It is essential that physicians have an array of medications available to enable them to tailor treatment to an individual patient’s disease type and that there is continued investment in research and innovative medicines for RA.”
The recommendation by NICE is based on data from the global Phase 3 SELECT rheumatoid arthritis trial programme involving nearly 4,400 patients over a cumulative total of 5,000 years of patient exposure.
Forty per cent of RA sufferers will experience symptoms beyond their joints and into other organs such as the eyes lungs and heart.
Coronation Street, Bad Girls and Strictly Come Dancing star Claire King was diagnosed with the condition in 1992, Lucille Ball, star of the famous 50’s show I Love Lucy, developed RA when she was a teenager as well as 80’s film star Kathleen Turner who has publicly tried to raise awareness of the disease.
In her 2008 memoir Send Yourself Roses she said RA had led to her reliance on alcohol but that Pilates and other exercise had helped.
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