I was surprised to find six new articles about Still’s Disease in my inbox this morning, thanks to the drug Tocilizumab being approved in the treatment of children with Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. This drug is being hailed as a wonder drug in the treatment of Still’s (sJIA), with patients so far showing a 90% increase in wellbeing; as these articles state, even children that were previously wheelchair bound have been given a new lease of life. What I didn’t know, is that Tocilizumab is actually the first drug to be approved to specifially treat sJIA/Still’s.
The first article from the Daily Mirror tells of a young girl with sJIA, who was bullied for being in a wheelchair and was crippled by pain, even with Morphine, but is now leading a ‘normal’ life thanks to Tocilizumab; she talks about how it has literally transformed her life, which is what we all want.
The next article from the Daily Mail is my particular favourite, since it features my Paediatric RD Eileen Baildam, who played a major part in the drug trials:
“Dr Eileen Baildam, consultant paediatric rheumatologist and triallist at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, has treated 12 children with the drug and seen them all make a remarkable recovery. She said ‘These are very sick children, the disease affects every single joint in their bodies as well as heart and lungs. They can die from heart failure and other conditions if they don’t get treated. It’s much worse than rheumatoid arthritis in adults.”
The article goes on to say how two thirds of patients treated with Tocilizumab had a 70% improvement after just three month, with this increasing to a 90% improvement after a year of treatment, with little or no side effects. The drug costs the same as similar biologic therapies available, but the NHS is currently assessing whether this will prove cost effective in the treatment of children. Dr Baildam says:
‘I hope and expect it will be approved and I think it should be given to children as soon as they are diagnosed to limit the disability caused by this dreadful disease.’
And I would agree with this – surely in offering this drug to children as soon as they are diagnosed will limit the amount of damage the disease causes, mean less hospital admissions, tests and procedures, plus shorten the length of time spent by doctors trying different medications, many of which have serious side effects that could in turn lead to hospital treatment being required. All these things would suggest that early treatment is absolutely cost effective.
All of this is extremely good news for Still’s patients, whatever their age.
Ps. To see why the terms Still’s Disease and sJIA appear to be interchangable in this article, please read my earlier post ‘Confused About Still’s Disease?‘ This interchangability causes much confusion.