Clinical Trials for Arthritis: Do They Work?
Arthritis is a painful, incurable condition. Sometimes it may seem like you have tried everything available, yet nothing works to alleviate symptoms. If you feel you have tried every available arthritis treatment, there may be more that you can do. Not all newer treatments are instantly available from the doctor – the newest treatments may only be available in a clinical trial. This article gives you all the information you need about clinical trials for arthritis to help you decide what may be best for you.
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a term that describes any inflammatory condition of the joints. Different forms of arthritis impact different joints and in different ways.
Osteoarthritis (OA) affects millions of people across the world, making it the most common form of arthritis. OA occurs when the cartilage between the joints degrades over time, leading to painful, unlubricated joint movements.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) occurs when the body’s own immune system is prompted to attack the lining of the joints, though it is unknown why this specifically happens.
Psoriatic arthritis (PA) is a form of arthritis that typically accompanies the skin condition psoriasis, though not everyone with psoriasis gets PA. Both are caused by an immune response, similar to RA.
Some of the other forms of arthritis include gout, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, reactive arthritis, septic arthritis and thumb arthritis.
What Is a Clinical Trial?
A clinical trial is one type of clinical study or a research study that uses human volunteers to advance medical knowledge. In a clinical trial, participants receive treatments from the research team with specific instructions to follow, which can include medications, devices, or even lifestyle interventions. Clinical trials come in five phases depending on how far the researchers have progressed on the path to FDA approval.
Early phase clinical trials are harder to find and get into because they have smaller pools of participants, and those treatments may not have been proven to work well yet. A later-phase clinical trial is more of a sure thing because the treatment has been shown to work and the pools of participants are much larger.
What Clinical Trials Are Currently Being Used to Treat Arthritis?
There are thousands of clinical trials available for arthritis and arthritic pain. A complete list of clinical trials for arthritis would not be possible, since new trials are added constantly and not all trials are relevant to all patients. However, there are some examples of the types of clinical trials available.
The most straightforward types of clinical trials are those testing new medications. In these types of trials, participants are assigned a course of treatment; they simply follow instructions while the researchers remain in touch to ask questions, take samples for tests and evaluate the patient’s progress, sometimes over multiple years.
When in later phases, these clinical trials involve many participants, so these are easier trials to get into. Some examples of drugs currently being tested by clinical trial include Pegloticase, Barictinib and trials studying the relationship between commercially-available arthritis medications and heart disease.
Those trials are just a scattered few examples of what is out there. Medications are constantly undergoing clinical trials, so there are a huge number of treatments being tested. It’s best to talk to your doctor and do some research before deciding which trial to pursue.
Other Clinical Trial Treatments
Not all clinical trials are strictly for medications. Some are for new clinical treatments. For example, stem cell therapy is a major new treatment for arthritis that is still in clinical trials. Even something as simple as sleep management can be the subject of a clinical trial.
The exact pattern of clinical trials for non-medication treatments can vary. In general, participants can expect to go to a clinic to receive a treatment in accordance with the plan prescribed by the researchers, who will then be in regular touch to evaluate progress. Patients may need to fill in regular questionnaires or allow researchers to take samples from them for testing. The clinical trials may not last as long-term observational studies, especially if the trial is in early phases.
Observational and General Studies
Some current clinical trials are less about checking a specific new treatment and more about learning more about arthritis in general. These include studies offered by the National Institute of Health about arthritis and spondyloarthritis, as well as many others.
These types of studies are often observational studies, in which the researchers do not assign a specific treatment method, but instead observe the natural course of a condition with whatever treatments the patients are already using.
Participation in these sorts of studies is pretty simple and generally consists of regular contact with researchers to answer their questions (in person or by questionnaire), as well as giving them permission to take certain samples for tests (blood or urine samples). These types of studies can also be long-term, as researchers check back in with patients over many years. However, they may not be best for patients who are interested in pursuing new treatments.
Finding a Clinical Trial That’s Right for You
Finding a clinical trial can be the most difficult part of participating in one. The best way to find a specific clinical trial to pursue is to use an online search tool like Clinicaltrials.gov or CenterWatch, which will allow you to search clinical trials by condition and location. Your doctor may also be able to point you in the right direction depending on what treatments you are interested in.
Clinical trials can provide one alternative route of treatment when conventional routes fail. In addition to potentially receiving a life-altering treatment, participating in a clinical trial supports medical research, improving the quality of life for arthritis patients of the future.