Osteoarthritis (OA) of the hands — a degenerative condition that causes pain and swelling and makes everyday activities (like opening jars) difficult — is incredibly common. Despite OA being so prevalent, there hasn’t been much advancement in medications designed to treat it. Most patients simply rely on anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

In recent years, interleukin inhibitors — drugs that block specific proteins tied to inflammation — have been proven to help patients with autoimmune forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis. Although OA is not an autoimmune condition, some researchers hoped that these interleukin-blocking medications might also help patients with OA, because it, too, is often associated with inflammation, especially when it occurs in the finger joints.

Unfortunately, a new study on one interleukin inhibitor, lutikizumab, failed to show benefits for patients with hand OA.

The study, published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, was a phase 2a randomized controlled trial in which 132 patients were assigned to get injections of lutikizumab or a placebo. After 16 weeks, reports of pain were similar in both groups. Imaging tests (MRIs) conducted when the study began and again after 26 weeks didn’t show any benefit from taking lutikizumab, either.

Where Does This News Leave Patients with Osteoarthritis?

While scientists continue to explore new treatments, talk to your doctor if your current OA regimen isn’t providing adequate relief. In addition to anti-inflammatory medication, you might be a candidate for corticosteroid injections, physical therapy, or even surgery.

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