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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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New Drug Fights Osteoarthritis Flare-Ups

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Nov. 27, 2001 -- When an arthritis flare attacks, people suffering from osteoarthritis need something to calm the pain. A new medicine hopes to serve just that purpose.

Researchers recently presented information on a new drug called Ultracet at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology. They showed that Ultracet plus an anti-inflammatory drug is more effective at easing the pain of an osteoarthritis flare than using an anti-inflammatory drug alone.

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis. It mostly affects people over 45. About 21 million Americans suffer from the wear and tear and cartilage breakdown.

Most osteoarthritis sufferers require only over-the-counter pain relievers. If these are not enough to ease the pain, many patients will be given prescription-strength anti-inflammatory drugs.

Researchers looked at more than 300 people with osteoarthritis who suffered a flare-up of their knee or hip pain. Each participant in the study was already taking an anti-inflammatory drug. When a flare-up occurred, some of them added Ultracet, while the others added a placebo.

Those taking Ultracet had significantly more pain relief than those taking placebo. And the relief came on fast -- within four hours.

The study was supported by Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc., the company that markets Ultracet.

The most common problems with Ultracet in this study were nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. But only 13% of people had to stop taking the drug.

The researchers designed the study to attack several different causes of pain in people with arthritis. While the anti-inflammatory drugs combat the pain by easing inflammation, Ultracet works on different pain-causing mechanisms in the body.

Ultracet is a combination of two drugs -- Ultram and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Ultram has been available for several years, but the combination -- Ultracet -- was just approved in August of this year.

Ultracet is recommended only for short-term relief of pain -- five days or less. And since it is an opioid type of drug, it should not be used by anyone who is currently addicted to pain pills or has been in the past.

There are also certain medications, such as antidepressants, that can make the chance of seizures due to Ultracet more likely. Talk to your doctor before taking this or any other prescription drug.

Ultracet may helpful in controlling the attacks of pain suffered by people with osteoarthritis. Getting over a flare-up is often the first step toward getting your life back on track.

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