Norfolk leads way with arthritis treatment

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is leading the way nationally with a pioneering drug treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

The new drug therapy, known as anti-TNF therapy, is helping transform the lives of people with severe rheumatoid arthritis. The drugs work by blocking the molecule responsible for causing the inflammation which may lead to joint damage and destruction.

Anti-TNF treatment is only offered to people with severe rheumatoid arthritis and who have not responded to other treatments. The NNUH is currently treating 120 patients. This is the largest single group of NHS patients in the country.

Treatment is administered to patients every eight weeks in the hospital’s Rheumatology day unit via a drip. A new self-injectable form of treatment should also be available shortly.

Rheumatology consultant at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Dr Karl Gaffney, said: “Rheumatoid arthritis is potentially a painful and disabling condition that affects young people as well as old. Many patients have to give up work and the condition really makes their life extremely difficult.

We are delighted to have been funded by our local health commissioners to be able to treat so many patients with anti-TNF here in Norfolk and it’s fantastic to see the positive effects the treatment is having.”

Darren O’Donoghue, 34, of Norwich, a regional manager for HFC bank, has had rheumatoid arthritis since he was 21 and has been receiving anti-TNF treatment at NNUH since February 2002.

He said: “My condition was extremely painful and, even though I’m a young man, there were bad days when I needed help just getting dressed and it was getting to the point where my career was being held back by my condition. Anti TNF has had a massive effect and has really given me my life back.”

This new treatment has been funded by Norfolk's Primary Care Trusts. Speaking on behalf of the PCTs, Dr Alistair Lipp, director of public health for Great Yarmouth PCT, said: “Norfolk's Primary Care Trusts and their professional advisers have long recognised the benefit to patients of these new medicines.

We were providing some funding for them even before they were recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). We have been pleased to honour our requirement to fund medicines recommended by NICE. It is gratifying to see so many patients benefit from this treatment.”

Arthritis facts (source: Arthritis Research Campaign)

  • Arthritis is one of the biggest causes of disability in the UK, affecting people of all ages, in particular older people
  • More than 7 million adults in the UK have long-term health problems associated with arthritis and related conditions
  • Such conditions are the second most common cause of days off work in both men and women, after mental disorders
  • Osteoarthritis (OA), is the most common type of arthritis which tends to affect people as they get older
  • Introducing Arthritis – 206 million working days were lost in the UK due to arthritis conditions in 1999-2000 – equivalent to a loss of production of £18 billion
For more information about arthritis, contact the Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC) on 0870 850 500 or visit the ARC website at 

Thursday 9th of January 2003 09:00:52 AM