New drug eases pain of arthritis sufferers

“MY life just came back” — that’s how mother-of-three Donna Whelan remembers when she discovered she could beat rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a crippling disease that mostly affects women among 35,000 sufferers in Ireland.

Donna, 34, from Dublin, told her story at the launch of revolutionary new drug humira, which is proven to give substantial relief. Studies show nearly one in four RA patients achieved a 70% improvement using it, with remission of the disease in 25% of cases.

“A couple of days after taking the medication I was at my living room door and realised ‘I’m up out of the chair’,” said Donna. “I hadn’t thought about it. Before that, I used to think ‘how am I going to get up now, how do I move, where’s sore?’ My life just came back.”

Cabaret star Dickie Rock’s wife Judy, who has suffered from RA for more than 20 years, is due to go on the medication next month. “She got it very young, just after we were married, and she reared six children with this disease, which was gradually getting worse.”

Dickie, who lives in Spain with Judy, said: “I did a gig for the Arthritis Foundation and that is how I am here today; they asked me to come along.”

Snooker ace Ken Doherty, after trying on a German-designed RA glove that replicates the sense of constriction a sufferer of the disease experiences, declared: “Having that glove on for five minutes showed me the suffering and pain they go through.”

Dr Doug Veale, consultant rheumatologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital, said of the drug: “It doesn’t work for all RA patients. But for those who achieve remission, the benefit is sustained long term.”

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