North Devon patients in drugs trial

North Devon rheumatoid arthritis patients will be among those taking part in a new UK drugs trial.

Patients from North Devon currently taking effective, but expensive, drugs could be weaned off them as part of the trial, potentially making considerable savings, enabling more people to access the treatment and reducing the risks of serious side effects.

Medical research charity Arthritis Research UK is running the national trial involving 99 rheumatoid arthritis patients in up to 30 hospitals.

A class of biologic drugs called anti-TNF therapies has transformed the lives of millions of people with rheumatoid arthritis world-wide and revolutionised the treatment of inflammatory forms of arthritis. But their success comes at a cost of between �10,000 and �12,000 a year per patient and their long-term side-effects are not known.

Now patients at the North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple whose disease is well-controlled by anti-TNF therapies are being asked to take part in the new clinical trial to find out if their dose can be tapered down without a return of symptoms.

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Rheumatologist Dr Stuart Kyle, local principal investigator of the trial, said weaning people slowly off anti-TNF drugs or even just reducing their dose could have significant benefits.

“No-one wants to be on a drug for ever, however effective, and from the perspective of people with arthritis receiving these drugs, using lower doses should reduce the risk of serious side effects. From the perspective of patients as a whole and society in general, using lower doses to maintain response will make treatment more cost effective and will enable more people with arthritis to access high cost therapies,” he said.

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The trial co-ordinating team at King’s College, London, will show whether it is possible to taper doses by one-third and two thirds in patients who have a good response.

All patients taking part will stay on their conventional disease-modifying drugs, with steroids and anti-inflammatory painkillers as required. Patients on reduced doses whose condition flares up as a result will go back on to their original dose of drug.

For more information about the trial contact lead clinical research nurse Fiona Hammonds on (01271) 314119 or email

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