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Credit: DTC Health

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects about one per cent of Australian population. Patients with the condition usually have to live with progressive joint destruction, disability, deformity and a reduced life span, even with treatments.

Recently, the newly approved drug Actemra, approved by the FDA may provide new hope for rheumatoid sufferers who have not responded well to available treatments or cannot tolerate other approved drug types for their joint disorder.

With the green light given by the federal government to support the cost, the drug will be made widely available for people with the condition that has left thousands of Australians in agony.

According to rheumatologist, Dr Maureen Rischmueller, this new treatment will offer a new ray of hope to many RA patients who have not found relief through available therapies.

The drug is specifically approved for the treatment of adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis who have failed other approved treatments and this guideline should be adhered to as there are serious safety issues -raised LDL, raised liver enzymes, hypertension, and gastrointestinal perforations - observed in the clinical studies.

The drug functions by attacking the chemical messengers that are responsible in causing inflammation in the joints. Specifically, Actemra acts by blocking the action of interleukin-6, an immune system protein that is present in high numbers in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Common adverse reactions noted during clinical trials include upper respiratory tract infections, headache, inflammation of the nose or nasal passage, raised liver enzymes and high blood pressure.

Patients with RA must inform their GPs if they are on any immunosuppressant -drugs that suppress the immune system - as they are likely to develop serious infections. The clinical trials also showed that in some patients, elevated LDL - bad cholesterol - occurred and they had to be given lipid reducing agents.