Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is often treated with an inexpensive drug called methotrexate. Now it appears that this same drug may be helpful for people who suffer from Osteoarthritis (OA), and that’s surprising.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune condition where the body’s defense system attacks healthy tissue in the lining of the joints, causing inflammation and pain. Methotrexate is a drug designed to treat certain autoimmune conditions and certain cancers. It works by suppressing the immune system and slowing growth of certain cells. For RA, it suppresses the immune system from attacking joints, and lessens the inflammation in the joints, which eases pain and reduces long-term damage to joints.
Osteoarthritis is a different beast. It’s a far more common form of arthritis that occurs when the cartilage at the end of bones wears down over time, causing pain, swelling and difficulty moving. So, could a drug for cancer and autoimmune conditions help the mechanical problems of bone rubbing against bone?
It appears so.
In a study by the Alexandria University in Egypt, which was published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease, found that 144 OA sufferers who took 25mg of methotrexate once a week for six weeks saw a significant reduction in their pain, and also had improvement in their mobility compared to a group of OA sufferers taking a placebo pill. More than one-third (37%) of those taking methotrexate had 40% less pain and more than half had 20% less pain.
“Methotrexate significantly reduced pain and improved synovitis. There was a significant improvement in physical function. Methotrexate may be a therapeutic option in the treatment of pain and inflammation related to knee OA,” the authors of the study concluded.
While the findings show some promise for some, it is important to note that methotrexate is a very powerful drug with potentially severe, or even fatal side effects, which you can read about from MedicineNet.com here.