Nightly News | May 09, 2012
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There's health news tonight, some new hope for patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis . It's not nearly as common as osteoarthritis, but the symptoms are usually debilitating. And now a new drug may be able to help those who have tried other treatments without funding any relief. Our report from our chief science correspondent Robert Bazell .
ROBERT BAZELL reporting: Michael Cohen , a former trader on the Chicago Commodities Exchange , is in constant pain from rheumatoid arthritis , an autoimmune disease that afflicts one and a half million Americans. Every treatment he's tried has failed.
Mr. MICHAEL COHEN: I'm looking and hoping for that, you know, maybe that there's a miracle out there that takes these symptoms away.
BAZELL: It may not be a miracle, but for the first time in a decade an FDA advisory committee today approved a new drug for rheumatoid arthritis , or RA , a pill from Pfizer called Tofacitinib . The FDA is expected to give final approval within months. RA afflicts three times as many women as men.
Ms. KAREN BARKEY (Diagnosed Three Months Ago): At the beginning I think getting used to the medication was a little hard. It has some side effects.
BAZELL: In the past, many patients were left severely disabled. Then biological drugs that target the specific causes of the disease, including Enbrel and Humira came on the market allowing many, but not all patients, to live normal lives. Thirty to 40 percent of patients like Cohen don't respond to the drugs that are currently available. The proposed new drug aims at a completely different target. The FDA panel decided that the dangers of the new drug, including an increased risk lymphoma and elevated cholesterol, were outweighed by the benefits.
Dr. TED FIELDS (Hospital For Special Surgery): It would be very nice down the road to have another option for someone who's failed the other drugs.
BAZELL: Cohen and many thousands like him are hoping the new drug will relieve their agony. Robert Bazell , NBC News, New York.