Ten big drug companies have joined together with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to accelerate the discovery of new medicines for diseases like alzheimers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The project is called the Accelerating Medicines Partnership. Under the five-year agreement, the companies will be sharing scientists, tissue and blood samples, and data. The underlying goal is to help identify targets for new drugs. Continue reading →
Criteria for denosumab (Prolia®) for osteoporosis and tocilizumab (Actemra®) for rheumatoid arthritis updated.
The Yukon recently added two medications to its Drug Formulary: denosumab (Prolia®) for osteoporosis and tocilizumab (Actemra®) for rheumatoid arthritis. Both medications are considered an Exception drug under the Pharmacare (seniors plan) and the Chronic Disease Program, which requires an application for the Formulary Working Group to assess. Continue reading →
Photo courtesy of sscreations at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I remember an experience I had many years ago as I made the rounds to various doctors trying to find out why I suffered from crippling pain. A neurologist recommended that a shot of cortisone in my spine could be the miraculous cure to put me out of my misery.
Cortisone earned a reputation as a miracle drug when it was first successfully used in 1948 at the Mayo Clinic to treat a rheumatoid arthritis patient whose crippling joints were unfrozen by the drug. Its label as a miracle medication earned its pioneers the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Cortisone may help relieve pain and is commonly given in joints, but there are limits on the frequency of its usage due to adverse side effects, so physicians have to carefully weigh the benefits against the risks.
I gamely agreed to the cortisone injection (at the time, I would have agreed to just about anything) and I received a shot in my lower back after an epidural to deaden my extremities. When the anesthesia wore off, I arose from the bed where I had been for about an hour. The pain was still there, but I was told that there would be a delay of up to a couple of days between the time the injection was administered and when I would start to feel some relief. Needless to say, no solace came and I soldiered on. Several years later, an orthopedic surgeon suggested I undergo cortisone shots in my back for a second time. I still did not have a positive diagnosis for my ankylosing spondylitis (AS), so throwing caution to the wind, I grasped at the carrot. This cortisone shot also did not produce any results, in fact, the pain seemed to worsen and I swore that I would never go that route again (never say never?).
Years later, when the plantar fasciitis in my heel continued over several months with no relief in sight, a podiatrist suggested I consider cortisone injections. With her reassurances that she expected a good outcome, I again took the bait. Good news! The shots worked and the pain disappeared within a few weeks. Another recent flare-up has me thinking—again—that perhaps I should opt for cortisone to get rid of the heel pain (stay tuned).
I have repeatedly questioned my rheumy about the osteoarthritis in my thumbs and the available options to ease that problem. During my last visit, he casually mentioned the possibility of cortisone shots in the base of my thumbs, but he quickly added that any relief would only be temporary and the injections would be quite “uncomfortable.” His lack of confidence sealed the deal for me: no thanks!
Today, cortisone (and its sister prednisone) is used to lessen the symptoms during acute AS flares. For many AS patients, cortisone truly is a miracle drug. Sometimes this option may be a last ditch attempt to gain relief, but for myself, I did not achieve anything near miraculous. Rather, I will just keep hoping for a miracle cure for AS. ~Fran
Have you ever taken cortisone (or prednisone) shots for your AS? Did it have a positive effect?
Health Canada recently approved adalimumab (Humira®) to treat adults with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis (UC) who are unresponsive to conventional therapy.
Adalimumab is currently approved in Canada for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS), Crohn’s disease (CD), and psoriasis (Ps) in adults. Adalimumab has also been approved to treat polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (pJIA) in children aged 4 to 17 years and Crohn’s disease in children aged 13 to 17 years. Continue reading →
Photo courtesy of Renjith Krishnan of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I recently blogged about my decision to take the annual flu vaccine and why I choose to go this route rather than play the odds of contracting this nasty virus. Making the decision is a no-brainer for me because a few years ago I got the flu and after the horrible full-blown symptoms had disappeared within a couple of weeks, I dragged around for another six weeks before I felt well again. Continue reading →
A friend recently told me that she was prescribed medical marijuana to help with her crippling and frequent migraine pain. As a reformed cigarette smoker, she decided against smoking it and instead, brewed the cannabis into a tea. While the resulting infusion only slightly eased her migraine pain, it made her feel groggy and slow (not ‘high’), so she abandoned this option as a viable alternative treatment.
When her mother who suffers from debilitating arthritis came for tea, she sampled the “special brew” and experienced the opposite effect: she became extremely agitated and therefore, declined to accept a second cup. I have another friend who uses marijuana to combat the debilitating effects of chemotherapy treatments; it is baked into bite-sized cookies that help suppress nausea and stimulate appetite. Continue reading →
If you struggle to open child-proof medication bottles, you will be happy to know that researchers are helping a large pharmaceutical company come up with a new secure cap that could receive the U.S Arthritis Foundation’s ease-of-use commendation.
Going so far as to wear gloves that would help them understand the experience of trying to open medicine bottles with arthritis—specifically “the limited ability to grasp, pinch, turn, lift and twist objects”—the researchers made recommendations that the company considered in their final design.
The process of developing the new pill bottle tops is rather interesting. Check out the article on medicalxpress.com.
The very early detection of rheumatoid arthritis and its prevention were highlighted at EULAR 2013 with an exciting presentation of a study of four new biomarkers.
“Prevention is better than a cure: A new dawn for the management of RA?” was the title of a presentation given by invited speaker Dr. Danielle M. Gerlag, an expert in clinical immunology and rheumatology at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Dr. Gerlag noted that research in RA prevention is focused on the earliest changes in the body as the disease starts. These include:
Circulating auto-antibodies (which serve to identify disease)
Increased acute phase reactants (proteins found in the blood that indicate the level of inflammation)
Early synovitis (inflammation of the synovial fluid which lubricates joints)
Research is showing elevated levels of auto-antibodies can be found in blood samples a median five years before clinical symptoms appear.
“It is known that early in the course of disease, a window of opportunity exists during which the introduction of aggressive anti-rheumatic therapy can result in a change in the natural course of the disease,” Dr. Gerlag said, noting that this “can be brought to another level now that we are able to identify those who are at risk of developing RA, aiming at the prevention of the onset of clinical signs and symptoms of arthritis.
While there are no interventions that would prevent the onset of RA, Dr. Gerlag said, “The immunological knowledge has advanced to a stage where such an intervention is likely to be successful.”
Belgian researchers presented a study on four new biomarkers to help with early detection of RA – important research given that one-third of people with RA test negative to existing diagnostic antibodies RF (rheumatoid factor) and ACCP (antibodies directed against cyclic citrullinated peptides). This is unfortunate because it can cause delays in patients receiving treatment early enough to increase the chances of achieving remission.
The new biomarkers tested in the study were found to be 85% specific to RA and produced positive results in 36% of study patients with early RA and 24% of those who had tested negative to both RF and ACCP.
Taking methotrexate (MTX) in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis increases the chances of bringing it into remission, which makes it an important part of the treatment strategy.
Methotrexate is the preferred initial disease-modifying medication to treat RA, and it can be administered in two ways: orally or by a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection. Does it make a difference? That was the question taken on by a Canadian study, headed by Dr. Glen Hazlewood at the University of Calgary.
The study looked at patients in the Canadian Early Arthritis Cohort (CATCH) who had been diagnosed with RA but had symptoms for less than a year and had not yet taken methotrexate.