Generic painkiller MAY SLOW
PROGRESSION of NERVE DISEASE
In a promising new clinical trial, Boston Medical School researchers found that an inexpensive generic painkiller slows the progression of a rare and usually fatal nerve disease. The finding is likely to be practice-changing for the 3,000 to 5,000 Americans who have the paralyzing condition known as familial amyloid polyneuropathy. The study, published last Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, involved 130 patients from the United States and other countries who were randomly assigned to take the drug diflunisal or a placebo twice a day for two years.
By the end of the study, about 30 percent of those who took diflunisal, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, had no progression of their disease, such as increased paralysis in their limbs, compared to 9 percent of those who took the placebo. The researchers couldn’t determine whether the effects would last beyond two years or whether the drug could prevent deaths from the disease.
“These findings are a big deal for several reasons,” said study leader Dr. John Berk of Boston Medical Center. “The drug had a dramatic effect on inhibiting the disease progression, was tolerated well, doesn’t cost much, and is widely available.”
Diflunisal costs $385 for a year’s worth of medication compared to a $200,000 to $270,000 annual cost for tafamidis, a drug being used to treat this disease in Europe.