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Remicade Offers Relief for Arthritic Children
April 21, 2005
By: Laurie Edwards for Knee1
For children who suffer from arthritis, the running, jumping and playing common for their peers is often hampered by pain, stiffness and fatigue. However, Italian researchers have some encouraging news for these kids: repeated infusions of Remicade, a newer anti-arthritis medication, decreased the number of joints with active disease and lessened pain and inflammation.
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Calling their results – reported in Arthritis and Rheumatism – “clinically impressive,” the Italian team followed 24 patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
JIA is extremely rare and is a general term for a host of symptoms and subgroups in children under 16. It is characterized by six weeks or more of joint swelling as well as a combination of joint tenderness, limited range of motion and heat surrounding the joint. From there, the disease is further classified depending if it affects less than five or less than four joints at one time or if it more systemic, the most rare form.
In severe resistant cases such as the ones in the Italian study, JIA can lead to long-term joint and cartilage damage.
Unlike many arthritis drugs making news lately, namely Vioxx and Celebrex, Remicade (known generically as infliximab) is what is called a biologic response modifier, meaning it is derived from living sources and helps stimulate the immune system to fight against inflammation and infection.
In a course of treatment similar to most people prescribed Remicade, the children in the study were given a starting infusion of the drug, two more doses after two and six weeks and an infusion every eight weeks thereafter.
All participants were also given weekly injections of methotrexate, a powerful drug targeting rapidly-growing cells that is often used to treat cancers.
After the first infusion, the children reported less stiffness and pain and increased energy levels. While the average number of joints affected started out at six, it dropped to two after 14 days, and after six months and one year, the number of joints affected had dropped all the way to zero.
”Despite the fact that this was a very severely affected group of patients, [one-third] did not have joints with active disease at the last visit,” the team said.
While 12 children did experience negative events during the actual infusions, they were not serious. While further studies are needed in this area, so far Remicade looks like an effective and safe alternative for children with resistant forms of JIA.
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