Relief for Patients with Spinal Disorder
The drug etanercept alleviates the pain and stiffness associated with ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory spinal condition, according to results of a clinical trial supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and published in the May 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
According to the study's lead author, Dr. Jennifer Gorman at the University of California, San Francisco, 20 patients received twice-weekly injections of etanercept and 20 patients received a placebo for 4 months. At the trial's end, 80 percent (16) of the patients taking etanercept reported less morning stiffness, spinal pain and joint swelling, compared with 30 percent (6) in the placebo group. All patients continued taking their pre-trial medications for ankylosing spondylitis, including nonsteroidal antiflammatory drugs, oral corticosteroids and disease modifying antirheumatic drugs, during the trial. Etanercept worked faster than these current therapies and slowed the disease process.
"This is a promising time for patients with ankylosing spondylitis," said the study's principal investigator, Dr. John Davis. "Etanercept reduces some of the most disabling disease symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, such as pain and stiffness. Further research may confirm etanercept's ability to slow and possibly alter disease progression (spinal fusion)."
Ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory arthritis characterized by joint stiffness, pain and extra bone growth that can result in partial or complete fusion of the spine, is difficult to treat. It typically strikes adolescent and young adult males. Currently there is no cure, and treatments have not been shown to affect spinal symptoms of the disease.
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