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Experimental drug brings relief for gout sufferers

Posted October 27, 2008

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— About 3 million people in the U.S. suffer a painful form of arthritis called gout. Most of those people find relief through medication, but there's been no treatment available for the most severe cases.

Now, researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found a drug that some patients call a miracle.

Janet Wheeless and Lonnie Matthews both suffered severe, disabling gout.

“I couldn't shower. I couldn't tie my shoes. I couldn't dress myself,” Wheeless said.

“It was miserable. I had so long felt like life wasn't worth living,” Matthews said.

What happens in gout is that excessive levels of uric acid in the blood can leave painful crystals called tophi in soft tissues and joints.

Often it’s in the fingers, “but any joint of the body can be involved,” Dr. John Sundy, a Duke rheumatologist.

Other drug therapies had failed to help Wheeless or Matthews, so both joined a Duke study to test a medication called Pegloticase.

“It's a medication that is a protein that actually chews up uric acid,” Sundy explained.

Sundy said the drug reduced uric acid in the blood to a safe level within hours, and it remained stable in 40 percent of patients three to six months later. Wheeless said she noticed pain relief in a few weeks.

“It just seemed like overnight, the tophi just started disappearing. My hands were back like they used to be,” she said. “It saved my life.”

Researchers still don't know how much of the drug is needed, how long patients need it or how safe it is in the long term. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug for general use yet.

Neither Wheeless nor Matthews want to think about life without it, however.

“It's a miracle,” Wheeless said.

6 Comments

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  • CrewMax Oct 30, 2008

    It can be a long, and possibly fruitless, path to try to discover
    what is causing the gout. This is a miracle of science. Anyone who
    doesn't believe that has never experienced the pain of gout.

  • JaredsMom Oct 30, 2008

    Cherry Extract works wonders for my gout.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Oct 30, 2008

    janeybelle, please read the science on this. It's not just red meat...it's the protein in ALL animal products. Unless someone dumps all meat and all animal products (vegan, like so many of us), then they've chosen their tongue as a priority over their health.

  • janeybelle Oct 30, 2008

    I am so glad to read about this. My husband suffers terribly from gout and contrary to what was mentioned in the previous posts, he eats very, very little red meat and does not drink at all. It's all a part of how you body processes uric acid. Obviously they have not suffered with this condition.

  • The Fox Oct 29, 2008

    Eat foods with flavinoids: cherries, blueberries, strawberries. Too much red meat and alcohol is not a good thing.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Oct 28, 2008

    Isn't it easier to just stop eating meat?...a major contributor to gout. That, and do some excercise. What am I saying? This is America. Nevermind.

    And why do people refer to years of scientific research and testing as "miracles". It's science...scientific inquiry...using the scientific method. Anything else belittles all of the $ and hard work.