Rheumatoid arthritis treatment abatacept could prevent disease in people at risk of developing the painful inflammatory disease

abatacept, rheumatoid arthritis drug, arthritis prevention, biologic drug, arthritis digestBiologic drug abatacept appears to stop rheumatoid arthritis developing in people with early indicators of the disease reveals an exciting trial in The Lancet.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects half a million people in the UK and develops when the body’s immune system attacks itself, causing joint pain, swelling and disability. It most commonly begins in middle age, but much younger age groups can be afflicted. Whilst new drugs have vastly improved outcomes, until now there has been no cure or way to prevent it.
Abatacept is currently used as an effective second or third line treatment for people living with established rheumatoid arthritis and is given by weekly injections at home or in hospital via a drip.
Researchers from King’s College London recruited 213 adults with early symptoms such as joint pain but no joint swelling, and treated half with the drug and half with a placebo every week for a year. The study drug was then stopped, and study participants monitored for a further 12 months.
After twelve months of treatment, 6% of people treated with abatacept had developed arthritis compared to 29% in the placebo group. By 24 months, the differences were still significant, with 25% progressing to rheumatoid arthritis in the abatacept arm compared to 37% in the placebo arm.
Secondary outcomes for the trial showed that abatacept was associated with improvements in pain, function and quality of life, as well as lower scores of inflammation of the lining of joints.
“These initial results could be good news for people at risk of arthritis as we show that the drug not only prevents disease onset during the treatment phase but can also ease symptoms such as pain and fatigue,” says Prof Andrew Cope, from King’s College London.

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