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    Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug May Improve Function

    Experimental Drug Orencia May Help Relieve RA Symptoms, Study Shows
    By
    WebMD Health News

    Sept. 14, 2005 -- The experimental rheumatoid arthritis drug Orencia is safe and effective, researchers report in The New England Journal of Medicine.

    The researchers show that Orencia offered pain relief and increased movement in arthritis patients who had exhausted other treatment options.

    "This drug works where others haven't," researcher Mark Genovese, MD, says in a news release. He is the associate chief of the immunology and rheumatology division at Stanford's medical school and an associate professor of medicine at Stanford.

    Several of the study's researchers, including Genovese, have served as employees or paid consultants for Orencia's maker, Bristol-Myers Squibb. The study was sponsored in part by Bristol-Myers Squibb. The company is a WebMD sponsor.

    An FDA advisory panel recently recommended Orencia for approval. The FDA often follows the advice of its advisory panels but isn't required to do so.

    The study was reviewed by the FDA advisory panel, states the news release.

    First in a New Class of Drugs

    Orencia is the first in a new class of rheumatoid arthritisrheumatoid arthritis drugs, note Genovese and colleagues.

    In rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune system attacks cells in joints. That can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling of the joints. Over time, it can lead to cartilage breakdown, bone loss, joint weakness, and disability.

    The immune system is targeted by several current rheumatoid arthritis drugs. Those drugs work and have helped many people. But some patients don't respond to those drugs, note Genovese and colleagues.

    Orencia also focuses on the immune system. It blocks a signal from the immune system's T-cells, which are needed to activate many of the cells of the immune system and play an important role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis.

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