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New drug slows arthritis

Tests show a new drug slows the progression of one of the most crippling forms of arthritis, as well as easing pain and improving mobility, its maker says.

The drug, Tenidap, was approved for sale first in the Netherlands last month under the brand name Enablex. The government is expected to consider its use in the United States next year.

It represents a big advance in treating rheumatoid arthritis, said its maker, Pfizer Inc., which unveiled test results Monday.

The tests involved about 300 patients over two years. One third took drugs that eased symptoms of pain and swelling; another third took two drugs, one for symptoms and one to slow disease progression. The final third took Tenidap.

Tests showed Tenidap patients did much better than the first group and the same or better than the second.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 2-million people in the United States, mostly women. It strikes people as young as 35 and eventually can freeze many of their joints, distort their hands and fingers and leave them helpless to perform the most basic tasks.

Pfizer also hopes to use Tenidap for the more common but less serious osteoarthritis, which affects about 15-million Americans, mostly elderly, and is usually confined to a few joints.

Analysts and arthritis specialists said they were impressed by the results but cautioned that larger studies and review by outside scientists must still be done.