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Arthritis pills held back by high costs.

A new drug for arthritis sufferers is being denied to hundreds of patients because of cost, according to a survey published yesterday.

More than 200 GPs from the West Midlands took part in the research into coxibs, a new treatment which appears to be free from the life-threatening side effects of traditional remedies.

But few patients are offered coxibs. Most are prescribed conventional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, according to the study.

NSAIDS are known to cause side-effects such as stomach ulcers and bleeding.

They result in approximately 2,000 deaths and 12,000 emergency hospitalisations in Britain each year.

The survey was carried out by Dr Andrew Moore of the Pain Research Clinic in Oxford.

Coxibs first became available in Britain a year ago for people suffering from osteoarthritis. But they cost about pounds 20 a month compared with just pounds 3 a month for traditional treatments.

Know as the 'wear and tear' form of arthritis, osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease which affects one and a half million people, most commonly aged over 60.

The survey revealed that spending on coxibs accounted for just 14 per cent of total funding for treatment of osteoarthritis.

In America and Canada, where coxibs have been on the market for a similar length of time to Britain, they account for 72 per cent of spending.

Dr Moore said: 'It is surely in the best interests of both patients and the Health Service to minimise the risk of side effects associated with older drugs such as NSAIDS.'

Jane Tadman, spokeswoman for the Arthritis Research Campaign, said: 'Cost may be an issue, but it may be that doctors are taking a cautious approach.

'Although coxibs appear to be safer, there is no such thing as a perfect pill.

'Doctors may be reluctant to pay the extra expense before the new treatment is assessed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence next January.'
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Author:Hudson, Jenny
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 12, 2000
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