In what could be termed as a huge breakthrough, scientists in UK may have found a cheap drug to beat the agony of arthritis, a debilitating condition that ails millions worldwide.

The drug, Spironolactone that costs just 14p a day was initially developed more than 40 years ago for treating heart disease and high blood pressure. The medication also has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Arthritis is generally caused by the destruction and loss of cartilage within joints. The condition is associated with inflammation in the joints, hands, feet and connective tissues that severely diminishes the quality of life of sufferers. Nearly 6 million Brits are struggling with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis.

Professor Marion McMurdo, head of ageing and health at Dundee University, carried out a clinical study earlier this year to find out whether spironolactone is an effective treatment for arthritis. The sufferers were assigned to 25mg of Spironolactone daily for five months. The findings published in the American Journal of Medicine indicate most patients experienced a decrease in pain levels.

McMurdo said, “Osteoarthritis affects over half of the older population and there is no cure, so the goal is to reduce pain and stiffness. Older people are particularly prone to drug side effects. Most commonly used painkillers cause side effects – like confusion and constipation – and can cause bleeding from the stomach. Such bleeds are much more serious in an older person. So fresh drug approaches to managing osteoarthritis in older people are urgently required. If effective, Spironolactone would provide a safer, more economical prospect than many modern anti-inflammatory drugs. It only costs £1 a week and we know from its use as a heart treatment that it is relatively safe.”

In the next stage, the research team will investigate whether Spironolactone is able to reduce pain in a group of older people with osteoarthritis of the knee. They will monitor 86 patients (aged 70 or more) suffering with severe knee pain. As a part of the trail the subjects will be given either Spironolactone or a placebo, daily for a period of 12 weeks. Pain will be analyzed and joint inflammation of the patients will be measured at the onset and close of the study.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, who has pledged £135,000 to sponsor the research stated, “Spironolactone has been around for decades so we know it’s safe. If it can also be shown to be effective it would be a massive boost for the millions of people who live with the constant pain of this crippling condition. We desperately need innovative new treatments.”

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