By Ted Swing

Millions of Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, break down of cartilage of various joints due to aging and wear and tear, or rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues caused by the body’s immune system. Many of these people require daily treatment with medications for their arthritis pain. Several types of medication are widely used as treatments for arthritis, such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil®), naproxen (e.g., Aleve®), and celecoxib (Celebrex®). Celecoxib is a COX-II selective inhibitor, meaning it targets a specific enzyme that causes painful inflammation among those with arthritis. Most other arthritis medications are non-selective inhibitors, meaning they decrease production of a number of enzymes. Selective inhibitors were developed because, by targeting only the relevant enzyme, common stomach and intestinal side effects of arthritis medications could be reduced. However, little is known about the safety of these medications for the heart. Because serious heart problems are rare, large scale and long term data are needed to show the long term safety of these medications.

Pfizer is currently gathering that information in a large scale clinical trial that will enroll 20,000 participants from hundreds of sites around the world who suffer from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and are also at high risk of heart problems. These participants will receive one of three widely used medications (celecoxib, ibuprofen, or naproxen) for four years as their health is monitored.

The research department at joined this important clinical trial last month. We are excited to be a part of this process because of the major impact the results will have on the future treatment of arthritis. The medications used for treating moderate to severe arthritis will be considerably influenced by what we learn about their relative safety.

An individual’s eligibility to take part in this study depends primarily on a diagnosis of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, as well as a high risk of cardiovascular disease. This high risk could be established based on any one of the following: 1. current coronary disease (narrowing or blockage of the arteries around the heart); 2. occlusive disease of the non-coronary arteries; 3. diabetes; or 4. the presence of a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease (including age, smoking, hypertension and family history).

Those taking part in this study will continue treatment for any other health conditions, including their heart, just as they normally would. The goal of this trial is to assess the safety of the currently used arthritis medications, while simultaneously minimizing the health risks for those taking part in the study. For example, study participants are also be given a daily dose of aspirin to protect their heart and a daily dose of Nexium® to protect their digestive tract, in addition to the study medication for their arthritis.

Ted Swing has more than eight years of research experience and four years of teaching experience in psychology, has published in top psychology and medical journals, and has presented his research at major conferences. He received his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Iowa State University and has been the Research Director at since May 2012.


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