British scientists develop 80p-a-day pill that can slow progress of osteoarthritis
10:12 GMT, 23 March 2012
There are around eight million people in Britain suffer from osteoarthritis, according to NHS figures
A pill that slows the progression of crippling arthritis has been developed by British scientists.
The 80p-a-day treatment has been found to reduce the damage caused to knee joints by osteoarthritis by a third.
Studies have also shown that it drastically lowers pain and improves patient's movement.
Oxford scientists behind the treatment believe it may be available on the NHS within the next year.
Around eight million people in Britain suffer from osteoarthritis and 140,000 hip and knee replacements are performed on the NHS as a result of the illness.
It causes the cartilage lining the bones to wear away which leads to damage to the joints, particularly the knee and hip.
There is no cure at present and patients with mild symptoms are normally given exercises or painkillers.
Those with more severe forms of the disease may need hip or knee replacements.
Scientists at the University of Oxford and University of Southampton carried out a trial on 1,683 patients with osteoarthritis that had caused damage to their knee.
Half were given this new pill called Protelosa and the other half a placebo.
Over the next three years the scientists measured their pain, their ability to move the knee joints and any deterioration of the cartilage.
They found that those on the pills suffered an average of a third less damage to the cartilage.
So if they were taking them for three years the progression of the disease would be slowed by one year.
The drug is expected to be licensed by the drugs watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, for use on arthritis patients within the next few months
The pills contains the chemical strontium ranelate which is thought to encourage the body to produce cartilage.
Professor Cyrus Cooper who presented his findings at the European Congress on Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis in France said: 'This is a major breakthrough.
'Osteoarthritis is a painful and debilitating condition, and for over 20 years we have been searching for a treatment that would allow us to alter the course of the disease, rather than just manage the symptoms.
'The results today are it, and could totally change the way we treat osteoarthritis.
'For the first time we have a treatment that can slow the development of this debilitating disease and could reduce or even eliminate the need for expensive and painful joint replacement surgery.'
The drug is already used to treat osteoporosis – thinning of the bones.
But it is expected to be licensed by the drugs watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, for use on arthritis patients within the next few months.
After that the NHS rationing body NICE will consider whether it should be available on the NHS.
But as the drug is so cheap and it has been found to be so effective, the scientists are confident it will be given the green light.