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Anakinra for rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes

A recent study investigated whether anakinra for rheumatoid arthritis led to a reduction of joint damage and blood glucose levels in patients with both rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease affecting the joints. The disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the joints by mistake and causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in and around the joints. If not caught early, the disease could result in joint damage and the patient might need a joint replacement. The condition is symmetrical, that is, the same joint is affected on both sides of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly affects the joints in the hands and feet and sometimes other body organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes. According to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Network, around one percent of the world’s population is afflicted with the disease. Individuals with RA are also at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Biologics reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

The cause of RA is unknown and there is currently no cure for the disease. Current treatments such as biologics help relieve symptoms and enable the patients to perform their daily activities. Biologics such as anakinra are proteins made from human genes and have managed to reduce joint damage and slow the progression of the disease. Anakinra for rheumatoid arthritis is administered to the patient by injecting the drug under their skin. It may take up to three to six months for the patient to feel the complete effects of the drug.

But what about blood glucose levels in patients with RA and diabetes?

Several studies have suggested an association between RA and abnormal increases in glucose levels in the blood, a characteristic of type 2 diabetes. In a recent study published in PLOS Medicine, researchers investigated whether anakinra could help reduce joint damage as well as blood glucose levels in patients with RA and type 2 diabetes. In this study, anakinra was compared with tumour necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFis), drugs that are used to reduce pain and swelling in RA patients. The study enrolled 39 participants with RA and type 2 diabetes from twelve rheumatologic units in Italy between 2013 and 2016. The participants were randomly assigned to one of the two treatment groups – anakinra or TNFIs – for a treatment period of six months. The trial was designed to be open-label, where the trial participants had knowledge of the treatment administered to them.

Anakinra reduces blood glucose levels in addition to RA symptoms

The study reported a significant reduction in blood glucose levels in participants treated with anakinra in comparison to those treated with TNFis. Both anakinra and TNFIs treatments showed significant improvements in RA symptoms. The researchers found a correlation between the decrease in blood glucose levels and RA disease symptoms in participants treated with anakinra. There were no serious adverse reactions to the treatments during the course of the study.

More research needed

The findings of the study suggest a treatment could be developed using anakinra for rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes. However, the researchers believe more studies are needed to further assess anakinra as treatment for both diseases as well as assess its implications on the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Written by Ranjani Sabarinathan, MScReferences:

Ruscitti P, Masedu F, Alvaro S, Airò P, Battafarano N, Cantarini L, et al. (2019). Anti-interleukin-1 treatment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes (TRACK): A multicentre, open-label, randomised controlled trial. PLOS Med. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002901

What is rheumatoid arthritis? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323361.php

Anakinra. https://arthritis.ca/treatment/medication/medication-reference-guide/medications/anakinra

Image by IAOM-US from Pixabay


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