News May 2003 Issue

In the News: 05/03

SAM-e Scores In Government Report
Since hitting the U.S. supplement market in 1999, SAM-e (a natural compound that includes amino acid needed for cell metabolism) has been promoted as a treatment for diverse ailments, including depression and liver ailments. But one of SAM-e’s other benefits, reduced arthritis pain, was discovered by accident. People who took part in clinical trials of SAM-e for depression reported that the pain of their osteoarthritis improved. Studies show that SAM-e increases production of cartilage cells and may fight inflammation in the fluid that lubricates joints. According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which tracked more than 100 clinical studies, SAM-e, when compared with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), substantially relieved the pain of osteoarthritis with fewer adverse gastrointestinal effects. The dose most often used is 400 mg a day.

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Link Confirmed Between RA And Heart Disease In Women
Yet another study has revealed an increased risk of heart disease among sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis. Findings from a recent Nurses’ Health study show that women with RA are twice as likely to experience myocardial infarction than women without RA. Several previous studies have established links between RA and heart disease because inflammation—a key component of arthritis—is believed to contribute to fatty build up in blood vessels, a known cause of heart disease. The Nurses’ Health study—which included 114,342 women between the ages of 30 and 55—found that women with RA not only were at two-fold risk of heart attacks, but those with RA for at least 10 years had three times the risk of heart attack compared with women without RA. Researchers concluded that aggressive cardiac preventive measures should be taken in patients with RA to address heart-disease risk. Further, examination was suggested to determine whether early treatment of RA with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) might reduce the future risk of heart attack.

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Fly The Friendly Skys: Aircraft-Engine Test For Artificial Joint Diagnosis
Ferrography, a long-standing procedure used to clean an aircraft engine’s lubricating fluids by running them through a magnetic device to separate out metal shavings, is being used by a University of Rhode Island researcher to assess the wear and tear on artificial hip and knee joints. The benefit, claims Donna Meyer, a URI assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is that implant patients may now be able to reduce the number of follow-up surgeries or the time spent in revision surgery. Most artificial hips and knees consist of of polyethylene or metal components. Over time, these components rub against one another, producing debris that settles between the bone implant interface. This contributes to the loosening of the implant, which necessitates further surgery to repair it. Meyers is currently at work on a “wear atlas,” a maintenance guide that can be used by surgeons to identify existing or potential implant problems prior to revision surgery.

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RA Sufferers: Cut The Caffeine, Up The Prograf
If you’re currently on methotrexate, and it’s not doing the job—namely, relieving the pain of your rheumatoid arthritis—that daily (or more) cup of java may be the culprit. Caffeine, as reported in two independent studies conducted in Israel and the U.K., resulted in methotraxate-treatment failure in a majority of RA patients tested. Recommended: Limit caffeine intake to one cup of coffee a day. Meanwhile, another study has found that the drug tacrolimus (Prograf) may help relieve RA pain in patients where methotrexate has failed. The study, which tracked RA patients who hadn’t responded to methotrexate, found that taking 1-3 mg of the immuno-suppressive drug daily led to substantial improvements, including fewer tender joints and increased physical function.