New Details on Osteoarthritis Treatments

  • Vitamin D is touted as having many almost miraculous benefits for treating and preventing disease, including OA pain and structural damage. Yet a two-year clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found no benefit of Vitamin D therapy in reducing pain or modifying structure in knee OA.
  • One ACR study looked at possible therapeutic angles to activating particular gene pathways – LKB1-AMPK and CaMKKb-AMPK – to reduce the progression of osteoarthritis.
  • Another study showed that OA patients taking a combination of naproxen sodium and esomeprazole magnesium (Vimovo) had similar efficacy and tolerability to those taking celecoxib (Celebrex), a COX-2 specific inhibitor, and had more heartburn-free days than those taking celecoxib.

New Osteoarthritis Medicines on the Horizon?

One new treatment in development for OA pain, tanezumab, showed great promise in Phase II and III clinical trials for inhibiting nerve growth factor, a chemical which may be linked to OA pain in injured or inflamed tissues. Yet one key trial was halted last summer when patients’ OA damage worsened although their pain was lessened by the drug. Some trial participants had to get hip replacement surgery.

Stem-cell therapy, a dynamic field of study for cancer and other serious diseases, may also hold promise for OA, one researcher revealed at November’s ACR meeting. Rocky S. Tuan, PhD, director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, suggested stem cells might be used to rebuild damaged tissues in people with OA, helping them boost their affected joints’ function.

New Scrutiny for Longtime Treatment

On Jan. 13, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration announced new restrictions on the drug acetaminophen (Tylenol), widely used for treating the OA pain. Acetaminophen often is sold in products that combine it with other drugs, such as the narcotic analgesics hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (Percocet). The FDA’s announcement on the matter noted that the agency had received reports of cases of severe liver injury associated with acetaminophen use.

Due to acetaminophen’s possible risk of liver damage when taken in higher doses, the FDA announced that prescription products containing acetaminophen, including in combination with other drugs such as narcotic pain relievers, must have no more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen per tablet or capsule. Such products must also carry a boxed warning of the risk of severe liver injury associated with taking too much acetaminophen.