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Blood test could reduce unnecessary arthritis treatment

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A straightforward blood test could pave the way for a “new era” of targeted rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treatment, a report has claimed.

Researchers found that people suffering from the condition could be saved unnecessary treatment by an examination to discover whether they had an antibody affected by the drug rituximab, also known as MabThera.

The test could save the NHS millions of pounds in wasted drug bills, the report added.

Study leader Professor John Isaacs, of Newcastle University, said: “This is an important breakthrough in the treatment of this chronic and debilitating condition, heralding the beginning of an exciting new era for patients, physicians and indeed the entire RA community.

“Conventional practice is based on treating the patient population as a whole, leading to some patients cycling on ineffective treatments before achieving the optimum response.

“By identifying in advance which groups are most likely to respond to, or to have an enhanced response to, drugs like rituximab, we can ensure they are treated early enough to prevent irreversible joint damage and disability. Additionally, this will reduce treatment costs by avoiding the use of ineffective drugs.”

The research was presented at the British Society of Rheumatology’s annual meeting.

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