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Arthritis ‘pacemaker’ on the horizon

Graphic explanation of how the arthritis 'pacemaker' worksAn arthritis ‘pacemaker’ is on the horizon. The device is a tiny electronic implant fitted under the skin near the collarbone. It works by sending electrical pulses to the vagus nerve. When the vagus nerve is stimulated by the electric pulse, it sends a signal from the brain to key organs such as the spleen and triggers a decrease in the production of cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that help regulate the immune system and can cause inflammation in joints.

The arthritis 'pacemaker' is currently being tested in the Netherlands with people who live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Scientists found that the use of electrical pulse can have a similar positive effect on RA without the side effects of medications.  The medical device should be available in the United Kingdom by 2020. A patient who took part in the pilot study said: "I have my life back, like before I got arthritis."

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Clare Jacklin of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society cautions: "The disease is different in different people. This new device may well be impactful for some patients dependent on their disease profile."

What are your thoughts? Would you use the arthritis 'pacemaker'?

About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease with hallmark symptoms of inflammation and resulting pain. It is a disease process (like cancer or diabetes) where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy joints. It is a relatively common disease-approximately 300,000 or 1 in 100 Canadians get it-and is often devastating to a person's body if not treated properly. The disease process causes swelling and pain in and around joints. It can also affect the body's organs, including the eyes, lungs, and heart. Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly affects the hands and feet. Other joints often affected include the elbows, shoulders, neck, jaw, ankles, knees, and hips. When moderate to severe, the disease reduces a person's life span by as much as a dozen years.

The disease affects women two out of three times more often than men, and tends to strike people in the prime of their lives. Most commonly, people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. Rheumatoid arthritis can strike at any time - people of every age from toddlers to senior citizens have been diagnosed with the disease.

Current treatment for rheumatoid arthritis are:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (for example Advil® or Motrin IB®), naproxen (or Naprosyn®), diclofenac (or Voltaren® and Arthrotec®)
  • COX-2 inhibitors, such as celecoxib (Celebrex®)
  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate, sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine, leflunomide and azathioprine
  • Biologic response modifiers (or "biologics"), including abatecpt (Orencia®), adalimumab (Humira®), anakinra (Kineret®), etanercept (Enbrel®), infliximab (Remicade ®), and rituximab (Rituxan®), all of which have been approved in Canada for use in treating rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Biosimilars medication, such as infliximab-Inflectra.
  • Targeted small molecule medication, such as tofacitinib citrate.