Wonder drug offers hope to children with arthritis

Cara has systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). She has limited joint movement and if she has a ‘flare up’ she experiences acute pain and stiffness and feels very ill. If her legs are affected, she needs to use a wheelchair and if her hands are affected, she can’t feed or dress herself or hold a pencil. Cara’s immune system is weakand catching any “childhood disease” would have serious implications for her.

It’s early days but there seems to be a new wonder drug for children like Cara. It’s called Tocizilumab. 112 children have been involved in a drug trial. After just three months of treatment with Tocizilumab nearly three-quarters showed a 70 per cent improvement in their condition, compared with eight per cent taking a placebo, or dummy drug.

Around 2,500 children in Britain have systemic juvenile arthritis which causes chronic illness, pain and disability. Some are in wheelchairs or bedridden but after a year two-thirds of children had a 90 per cent improvement in their symptoms.

Tocilizumab can be prescribed for children over 2 but willl cost £9,000 per patient per year so the NHS may decide that it is too expensive.