Gold Helps With Arthritis When Usual Drug Fails

Although jewelry may be the first thing that springs to mind when someone says "gold," injecting a liquid form of the metal can help people with rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, gold therapy has been around for a while, and now new research shows it can be effective when combined with another treatment. In the study, reported in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, gold therapy reduced the severity of arthritis in patients who had a poor response with methotrexate, the standard drug used to treat the disease. Findings from several observation studies have shown that gold can augment the treatment response seen with methotrexate, but until now, this has not been investigated in a study in which patients were randomly selected to receive gold or inactive "placebo" injections. The study, which was conducted by Dr. John M. Esdaile, from the Arthritis Research Center of Canada in Vancouver, and colleagues, involved 65 patients who received weekly injections of gold or placebo. At 48-week follow-up, significantly more gold-treated patients had experienced a treatment response than those given placebo. In addition, the gold therapy was found to me more cost-effective. These results support previous findings indicating that combination therapy with gold and methotrexate is useful when the latter agent fails to provide an optimal response, the authors state. New and effective drugs called TNF blockers have recently become available for rheumatoid arthritis, but they are expensive. "Given the high costs of (newer anti-rheumatic drugs), we believe that there continues to be an important role for gold in combination with methotrexate, especially when cost is an issue," Esdaile's team concludes. SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, May 2005.

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