Freeing the Victims of Arthritis; A New Therapy Can Drastically Alleviate a Vicious Form of Arthritis - but It Is Not Available to Everyone. Laura Davis Reports
Byline: Laura Davis
ALTHOUGH they have never met and are from very different backgrounds, Paul Owens and Rodney Brown have both had their lives drastically disrupted by the same burden.
Both men suffer from a vicious form of arthritis of the back, called ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which affects 60,000 people in the UK and up to 5,000 in Merseyside.
But while Paul is practically bedridden, Rodney is able to go for walks with his wife and has just set off on a sunshine cruise.
Yet it is he who is the pensioner, while Paul, who celebrates his 32nd birthday today, is unable to play in the park with his children.
This is because Rodney has been fortunate enough to be treated with a new therapy, currently only funded by certain primary care trusts in the UK, that has greatly improved the constant pain he was suffering.
AS sufferers are not automatically prescribed the new drugs, administered by injection, they have to be individually assessed by a rheumatologist. "AS is a nasty disease that causes much pain and distress and can lead to people being unable to work or even get out and about," explains Prof Robert Moots left, who is an expert in the disease at University Hospital Aintree.
"It is not just a disease of the back - it can affect many other parts of the body including lungs and heart."
Prof Moots, consultant rheumatologist at the hospital and professor of rheumatology at Liverpool University, is concerned about the availability of the new drug (called anti-TNF) to the 10% of AS sufferers whose cases are severe and whose lives would be turned around by the treatment.
He is calling for fair access to the therapy and believes that if more people are aware of it they will be able to put pressure on Primary Care Trusts and hospitals to provide it.
"I am worried that at the moment many patients who may benefit from these drugs are not able to get them and I will continue to do my best to publicise the disease and the fantastic response that many patients can enjoy with these new drugs - so pressure can be made to free up funding to ensure they are available for the patients that need them," he explains. …