Older people in Dundee living with knee pain and osteoarthritis are being asked to join a research study hoping to find a safer treatment for reducing pain and improving quality of life.
Researchers at the University of Dundee are hoping to examine the effects of spironolactone, an inexpensive and well known heart drug that has been on the market for over 40 years and which they believe may have potential to help people with osteoarthritis.
'Spironolactone has never been looked at before in osteoarthritis. But we did a recent trial, funded by the Chief Scientist's Office, which suggested it could be a new approach to reducing pain and improving quality of life for older people with arthritis' said Professor Marion McMurdo, Head of Ageing and Health at the University, who is leading the study.
'Osteoarthritis affects over half of the older population. No cure exists for osteoarthritis, so the goal of treatment is to reduce pain and stiffness.
'Unfortunately, older people, the group most afflicted by osteoarthritis, are particularly prone to drug side effects. Most commonly used pain killers cause troublesome side effects - like confusion and constipation - and can cause serious side effects like bleeding from the stomach. Such bleeds are much more serious in an older person than in a younger adult. So fresh drug approaches to managing osteoarthritis in older people are urgently required.
'If effective, spironolactone would provide a safer and more economically attractive prospect than many modern anti-inflammatory drugs. It only costs £1 per week and we know from its use as a heart treatment that it is relatively safe.'
The new study, funded by a £135,000 grant from Arthritis Research UK, is hoping to recruit 86 people in the Dundee area who are aged 70 years and over with knee pain and osteoarthritis.
'This next stage of our research is vital to find out whether spironolactone can be a useful treatment in osteoarthritis,' said Professor McMurdo. 'We receive fantastic support from the people of Dundee and the surrounding areas for the research work we carry out, and are extremely grateful for that. Research is what drives the development of new treatments which improve people's lives.'
People will be given either 25mg spironolactone daily or a matching dummy tablet for 3 months. Each person who takes part will have a 50:50 chance of getting the spironolactone, and neither the researchers nor the patients will know who has got which.
The research team will measure pain, quality of life, stiffness and physical abilities using questionnaires, and take blood tests of inflammation and joint changes before the study begins and again after 3 months.
For more information about the study and how to take part, please phone Ageing and Health in Ninewells Hospital on Dundee 383086 during office hours.