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Dutch trial shows advancement in rheumatoid arthritis treatment

March 04, 2015
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Researchers in the Netherlands, in cooperation with GlaxoSmithKline, recently reported notable success in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis via implant. By inserting a “pacemaker-like” medical device into the neck of trial participants, researchers were able to alleviate the discomfort in joints common among arthritis sufferers. 

This news has excited many of the roughly 1.5 million Americans suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While the severity of the symptoms can vary from case to case, most sufferers endure painful “flares” that result in swollen and painful joints. A flare can last from hours to months at a time, and there is currently no cure available. However, there are a number of medications designed to help ease symptoms, which can vary in effectiveness from patient to patient. 

This latest trial, which was conducted at Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Centre, involves sending electronic impulses to implanted electrodes to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve plays a key role in managing the body’s immune system via the spleen. The implanted device can be switched on or off by the use of a magnet. 

Professor Paul-Peter Tak, who led the clinical trial, explains that this strategy may emerge as an alternative to drug therapies for management of the disease. He told The Guardian that patients who have not seen any improvement after other treatment methods, including drugs, experience enhanced comfort with the implant. 

“We may be able to achieve remission in 20 percent to 30 percent of patients, which would be a huge step forward in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis,” Professor Tak explained to the source. “It is very appealing to patients because they do not want to take medicines for 30 to 40 years. It’s also restoring the natural balance in the body.”

While the method requires a larger trial to be developed further, it does show potential for the future efficacy of electronic nerve stimulation to treat RA. Medical Metrics employs some of the most well recognized thought leaders in arthritis treatment today, and offers clinical and scientific experts with practical experience to provide expert medical imaging services during the clinical trial process. 

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