Biloine W. Young

October 23, 2017

3 min
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From Australia – Breakthrough in arthritis treatment

This article originally appeared in Orthopedics This Week on October 23, 2017.

Medical researchers in Australia are cheering what they claim is a breakthrough new drug—Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium (PPS)—that has the potential to eliminate the need for hip or knee replacements. That advancement, alone, would save the world’s health systems tens of billions of dollars.

According to News Corp Australia, more than three million Australians crippled by pain—including sports stars—are set to benefit from the new medication.

Australian scientist Professor Peter Ghosh and an Australian company Paradigm Biopharma have discovered that the drug Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium (PPS), which has been used for 70 years to treat blood clots and urinary tract infections in women, can reduce and eliminate osteoarthritis pain.

Osteoarthritis is caused by the thinning of cartilage on joints which can result in bones rubbing against each other, creating pain and difficulty in walking. There are currently no disease modifying medications for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of joint replacements which cost Australia’s health system more than $1.2 billion a year.

While there has been no double blind placebo controlled trial of the medicine as yet, arthritis patient Kaye Loughlin’s arthritis pain went from 8/10 to 0/10 after six injections of the drug and she is no longer considering a knee replacement.

Another 30 patients have been treated with the drug and 70% have seen significant reduction in their arthritis pain. Another 15% got initial relief with treatment over three weeks.

The dream is that Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium (PPS) could someday delay or eliminate the need for 75,000 hip and knee replacements a year in Australia.

Arthritis expert from Monash University Professor Flavia Cicuttini says the results are fantastic. “It’s often said if you had to choose one disease, one drug, if you could find a drug to slow the progression of osteoarthritis you could be home and housed for a decade.”

“At the moment osteoarthritis is the last frontier of big diseases with no treatment, if this drug works, even if it just slows the progress, you don’t need to cure it, you could change the pattern of the disease,” she said.

Australian scientists made the discovery by rethinking the cause of osteoarthritis.

“We’re thinking osteoarthritis starts in the bone,” says Paradigm Biopharma CEO Paul Rennie.

There appears to be a link between bone marrow lesions and the swelling that causes pain and cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis, he says.

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