Spironolactone could reduce the pain for millions with arthritis
17th December 2013
arthritisThe potassium-sparing diuretic Spironolactone may have another use in the near future after scientists found that it could help the millions of people around the world suffering with debilitating arthritis. Now commonly referred to as a ‘water pill’, due to the fact it can treat fluid retention (edema) caused by various conditions such as kidney or liver disease, Spironolactone was initially developed more than 40 years ago as a treatment for high blood pressure and heart failure. However since then, the capabilities of Spironolactone have been revealed and the medication can now be prescribed as an acne treatment (for women only). For over 20 years, Spironolactone has been a popular anti androgen in the treatment of acne and hirsutism, becoming the most widely prescribed medication for these problems in the USA. If all that wasn’t enough, new research has shown a breakthrough that could benefit the estimated 6 million Brits who are struggling with osteoarthritis – the most common type of arthritis in the UK – forcing 1 million people in the UK to see their GP about it each year. The first study, led by Professor Marion McMurdo, head of ageing and health at Dundee University, was conducted earlier this year and assessed the effects of whether taking 25mg of Spironolactone daily for a duration of 5 months would provide any relief for osteoarthritis sufferers. The results have been published in the American Journal of Medicine, and report that many patients said they had a decrease in pain levels. Those behind the study believe that Spironolactone reduced pain by suppressing a hormone called aldosterone, previously linked to inflammation in the joints, or could increase levels of cortisol, a hormone lessens the body’s sensitivity to pain. The next stage for Professor McMurdo and her team will be the monitoring of 86 patients aged 70 or over, all of whom suffer with severe knee pain. Participants will either be given Spironolactone or a ­placebo, daily for 12 weeks. Pain will be analysed and their joint inflammation will be measured before and after the trial. Professor McMurdo said: “Osteoarthritis affects over half of the older population and there is no cure, so the goal is to reduce pain and stiffness. Older people are particularly prone to drug side effects. Most commonly used painkillers cause side effects – like confusion and constipation – and can cause bleeding from the stomach. Such bleeds are much more serious in an older person. So fresh drug approaches to managing osteoarthritis in older people are urgently required. If effective, Spironolactone would provide a safer, more economical prospect than many modern anti-inflammatory drugs. It only costs £1 a week and we know from its use as a heart treatment that it is relatively safe.” Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, has put his faith into Spironolactone being a successful and viable treatment option for arthritis in the future, even pledging £135,000 to help cover the research cost. Professor Silman commented: “Spironolactone has been around for decades so we know it is safe.”