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New Twist on Prednisone for RA

Rheumatoid Arthritis Study: New Prednisone Pill, Taken at Night, Eases Morning Joint Stiffness
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 17, 2008 -- Rheumatoid arthritis researchers have created a new steroid pill that works overnight to ease morning joint stiffness.

Rheumatoid arthritis patients take the pill at night. The pill releases its prednisone four hours later, in time to curb morning joint stiffness.

The new prednisone pill works better than the traditional formulation at reducing morning joint stiffness, a new study shows.

The study included 288 adult rheumatoid arthritis patients in Germany and Poland. Half of them got the new prednisone pill. The other patients got traditional prednisone, which works immediately.

The patients kept daily diaries about their joint pain during the 12-week study. In those diaries, patients reported less morning joint stiffness within two weeks of starting to take the new prednisone pill.

Side effects were similar for patients taking either type of prednisone.

The researchers -- who included rheumatology professor Frank Buttgereit, MD, of Germany's Charite University Medicine Berlin -- report the results in tomorrow's edition of The Lancet.

The findings are "clearly relevant," but longer studies are needed to see if the new prednisone pill maintains its effectiveness beyond three months, says an editorial published with the study.

The new formulation may also prove useful in treating other conditions, say the editorialists, including Johannes Bijlsma, MD, PhD, of the rheumatology and clinical immunology department of Utrecht Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Buttgereit's study was funded by a German branch of the drug company Merck. Buttgereit and colleagues note financial ties to various drug companies including Merck. Editorialist Bijlsma has served as a consultant to Nitec, the Swiss company developing the new prednisone pill.

(What treatment works best for your RA? Join the discussion on the Arthritis and Joint Pain Support Group board.)

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