New drug for rheumatoid arthritis

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams—May 9, 2012

Featured in this Nightly News report are Michael Cohn who travelled from Chicago to see Dr. Theodore Fields, director of the Rheumatology Faculty Practice Plan at Hospital for Special Surgery, and Karen Barkey, a recently diagnosed patient of Dr. Vivian Bykerk, a rheumatologist in the Inflammatory Arthritis Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.

There is new hope for patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. It is not nearly as common as osteoarthritis but the symptoms are usually debilitating and now a new drug may be able to help those who have tried other treatments without finding any relief. Currently, 30 to 40 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis do not respond to the drugs that are currently available.

Michael Cohn is a former trader on the Chicago Commodities Exchange. He is in constant pain from rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects 1.5 million Americans. Every treatment he has tried has failed.

Mr. Cohn: I am looking and hoping for that miracle that takes these symptoms away.

For the first time in a decade an FDA advisory committee today approved a new drug for rheumatoid arthritis, a pill from Pfizer called tofacitinib. The FDA is expected to give final approval within months.

RA affects three times more women as men.

Karen Barkey: At the beginning I think getting used to the medication was a little hard; it has some side effects.

In the past many patients were left severely disabled, then biological drugs that target the specific causes of the disease allowed many but not all patients to live normal lives. Thirty to forty percent of patients like Cohn don't respond to the drugs that are currently available. The proposed new drug aims at a completely new target.

Dr. Theodore Fields: It would be very nice down the road to have another option for someone who has failed the other drugs.

View the segment at video.msnbc.msn.com.

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