A new study of a device that removes certain immune system components from the blood supports its safety and effectiveness as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis that doesn’t respond to heavy-duty anti-rheumatic drugs, investigators report.
Prosorba column apheresis therapy, or PCT, was approved for treating rheumatoid arthritis in 1999. In a study sponsored by Fresenius Hemocare, data on 91 people with rheumatoid arthritis were collected as they completed 12 treatments with PCT. Previously, all the patients had not improved after treatment with an average of four different anti-rheumatic drug regimens. As reported in the Journal of Rheumatology by Dr. Sanford Roth at the Arizona State University in Tempe, more than half the subjects improved by better than 20 percent on a composite score of arthritis severity. Many aspects of their disease improved more than 20 percent, Roth notes. For example, there was 52 percent improvement in joint tenderness, and 42 percent in pain. Six participants experienced a rash, including two who developed kidney complications that resolved after treatments were stopped. There was one heart attack, one case of heart failure and one instance of a lung clot — none of which appeared to be related to Prosorba therapy. According to Roth, there are patients for whom column apheresis is safer than treatment with potent drugs, many of which are powerful immune system suppressants. “Prosorba column therapy is appropriate as a choice for patients who have increased risk for complications of infection,” he told Reuters Health. “That’s true in the very elderly, people who have a history of significant infections, chronic lung disease … and patients who have had a septic joint history.” Rheumatoid arthritis is a very serious disease, he continued, “and there are so many differences between individuals and the risks and problems they present, that it’s important that we have choices and that these be considered in proper perspective.” (Source: Journal of Rheumatology, Reuters Health, December 2004)