Health Canada OKs new rheumatoid arthritis drug

Health Canada approves new drug for rheumatoid arthritis

Health Canada has approved a new, self-injectable drug for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The drug is called Kineret, described by its manufacturers as a natural protein, the first of a new class of drugs called Interleukin-1 receptor antagonists.

People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) suffer severe joint inflammation, which causes pain, stiffness and damage to the joints. The disease affects women three times more than men.

Ten years after onset of the disease, half the patients are too disabled to work. Left untreated, permanent disability usually results within 10 years. It can shorten lifespans by as much as 18 years.

A news release announcing the drug's approval says, "Kineret works by mimicking the body's natural way of blocking the action of (Interleukin-1)."

Results of clinical tests of the drug show improvement among some patients with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms within four weeks of taking Kineret. Usually it takes longer, about 12 weeks.

"Kineret is not just another option, but a major advance in treating rheumatoid arthritis," said Dr. Carter Thorne, medical director of the Arthritis Program at the Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont.

Patients inject themselves with the drug, using a pre-filled syringe, which allows the medication to be injected at the right dose and proper depth to be effective, and the patient never sees the needle.

Even though Health Canada has approved Kinernet, provincial drug plans as yet do not cover the costs.