Older adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis can now treat themselves at home, following the recent listing of a new self-injecting, anti-rheumatic drug in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
The PBS listing of the new self-injecting version of Orencia will provide patients with another option for treating their rheumatoid arthritis – from the comfort of their own home.
The anti-rheumatic drug, Orencia (generic name, abatacept), was first made available in Australia 2008 as an intravenous treatment that had to be administered by a nurse or doctor.
Yet recent clinical trials found the self-injection form – available via a weekly injection, under the skin – was as safe and effective as the intravenous version.
Rheumatologist, Associate Professor Peter Nash from the University of Queensland, said that with appropriate treatment, rheumatoid arthritis patients can live a full and active life.
“Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of chronic inflammatory arthritis affecting up to one per cent of the population worldwide,” said A/Prof Nash.
“Apart from causing chronic pain it can be disabling and deforming which is why it is important for patients to consult their doctor regarding the most suitable option.”
Rheumatoid arthritis is the result of the immune system’s attack on healthy tissues, causing swelling, pain, fatigue and limited movement in the affected joints.
The condition affects around 400,000 Australians and is most common in those over 30 years of age, with women being more likely to be affected than men. It is not curable but symptoms can be managed to help improve quality of life.
Orencia in combination with methotrexate is listed on the PBS as a treatment for moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis in adult patients who have had an insufficient response or intolerance to other disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs.
Both the self-injecting and intravenous versions of Orencia work by stopping the immune system from attacking the body’s vital tissues, reducing pain, joint inflammation and damage to bones and cartilage.
Rheumatoid arthritis sufferer, Brian Holliday, has lived with the condition for nearly five years.
“Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful condition,” Mr Holliday said.
“It can wear you down both physically and psychologically. At times the condition meant I was unable to do the things I most wanted. I couldn’t drive long distances. I was also reluctant to swim in the sea because I was not sure if I would be able to stand up after being knocked down by a wave.
“Through consultations with my doctor and specialists I can now properly manage the condition.”
Orencia aims to reduce the body’s ability to fight infection and should be avoided in patients with severe infections such as sepsis, abscesses, tuberculosis and opportunistic infections.
For more information about the drug, visit the Bristol-Myers Squibb website by clicking here.