Medical Breakthrough: Arthritis Relief

Monday, September 20th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

More than two million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an often crippling disease that can make the simplest task impossible. Now, for a small percentage who've found no relief from drugs, there's a breakthrough that may change lives. Lisa Caswell says the simple act of walking without pain is a miracle. Eight years ago, she woke up with agonizing pain. "It was a sharp pain, like someone had a knife going into my joint," says Caswell.

Six months and countless tests later, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself, causing pain and swelling in the joints. Drugs did not help. Caswell adds, "I was devastated over the several years of trying all these different medications that did nothing. I was frightened."

Daniel Furst, M.D., a rheumatologist at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash., prescribed a treatment known as the Prosorba column for Lisa. It filters excess antibodies from the patient's blood and returns it. Doctors are uncertain exactly why it works.

"What we can say is that it probably affects proteins, which then later turn down some of the white cells that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis," says Dr. Furst.
The Prosorba treatment involves 12 weekly trips to the hospital and two hours for the procedure. For some patients, including Caswell, relief can last up to a year or more.
The Prosorba column, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in rheumatoid arthritis, is not a cure. Caswell will always be under a doctor's care to help control the disease, which she says no longer controls her. It's estimated 10 per cent of the 2.5 million Americans suffering from rheumatoid arthritis could benefit from the Prosorba treatment.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Chris Schneder
Virgina Mason Medical Center
Communications Department
1100 Ninth Avenue
J1-PR P.O. Box 900
Seattle, WA 98111