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Health Headlines - June 29

Posted Jun 28 2009 9:34pm
New Drug Shows Promise for Rheumatoid Arthritis

A new drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis reduces joint inflammation in severe cases while causing only mild to moderate side effects, according to a report from the first clinical trial of the drug on humans.

Masitinib, which is being developed by AB Science pharmaceuticals, is supposed to halt the activity of mast cells, a part of the immune system believed to be involved in the start and progression of rheumatoid arthritis.

The results of the French trial, involving 43 people with arthritis that other treatments had failed to help, appears online in Arthritis Research and Therapy.

"We are encouraged from this study that masitinib not only appears to be effective, but that within the first three months of treatment, the worst of its side effects were over, possibly making it suitable for long-term treatment regimens," one of the researchers, Olivier Hermine, said in a news release from the journal's publisher. The next step will be placebo-controlled trials, he added.

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Vitamin D may help prevent knee osteoarthritis

Low levels of vitamin D are associated with the loss of cartilage in the knee joint of older individuals, researchers in Australia report.

"Cartilage loss is the hallmark of osteoarthritis," Dr. Changhai Ding told Reuters Health. By the time patients reach the point of needing knee replacement, 60 percent of cartilage has been lost, he said.

However, "achieving vitamin D sufficiency in osteoarthritis patients could significantly delay total knee replacement," said Ding, at the Menzies Research Institute in Tasmania.

In a study, Ding and colleagues found "osteoarthritis patients with vitamin D sufficiency have approximately 1.5 percent less loss of knee cartilage per year than patients with vitamin D deficiency," said Ding.

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Obama pressures Senate on climate change measure

Hailing the House, President Barack Obama put pressure on senators Saturday to follow its lead and pass legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions, helping usher the U.S. into a new age of energy efficiency.

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Obama urges Americans get tested for HIV

President Barack Obama on Saturday urged his fellow Americans to get tested for HIV in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus that causes AIDS.
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