Chinese herbal medicine 'can be eﬀective in treating rheumatoid arthritis' A traditional Chinese herbal remedy has shown similar eﬃcacy to an approved drug therapy for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in a new clinical study.
Led by a team at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, the research revealed that Triptergium wilfordii Hook F - or TwHF for short - can relieve joint pain and inﬂammation just as well as methotrexate, a standard drug treatment that is frequently prescribed to control the symptoms of active rheumatoid arthritis in the West.
TwHF is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat joint pain, swelling and inﬂammation, and is already approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in China. It contains more than 300 compounds, including diterpenoids, which are thought to be able to suppress genes controlling inﬂammation and dampen immune responses.
To formally evaluate its safety and eﬃcacy, the scientists randomly assigned 207 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis to one of three treatment groups - methotrexate 12.5 mg once a week, TwHF 20 mg three times a day or a combination of the two over a period of 24 weeks.
Results published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases revealed the proportion of patients achieving the target of a 50 per cent improvement in the number of tender or swollen joints and other criteria including pain, disability and disease severity was just under 46.5 per cent among those treated with methotrexate alone, compared to 55 per cent of those receiving TwHF.
Moreover just under 77 per cent of those treated with both reached the treatment goal, suggesting a combination of treatments could yield the best results. However, it was also noted that 24 weeks is too short a time to evaluate disease
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progression, and that the dose of methotrexate used in the trial was lower than the typical dosage.
A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK commented: "Previous trials of TwHF, also known as thunder god vine, have shown it has some anti-inﬂammatory properties and immunosuppressive actions, making the compound a potentially useful substance for treating rheumatoid arthritis.
"However, it has well-documented side eﬀects such as stomach pain, diarrhoea, nausea, headaches, skin rash, hair loss, infertility in men and failure to menstruate in women. There are serious safety concerns about this substance and its risks appear to outweigh its beneﬁts."
See more at: http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/news /general-news/2014/april
Volume 71 number 3 ISSN 1756-3291