Newer medicines used for arthritis and osteoporosis

The range and quality of medicines available to manage arthritis and osteoporosis have expanded considerably over the past decade, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Medication use for arthritis and osteoporosis, provides information on what medicines Australians are using to manage their musculoskeletal problems, how much these medicines cost, and trends in the prescription of new medicines.

'Medicines are central to managing arthritis and osteoporosis to improve mobility and reduce pain and inflammation,' said Dr Kuldeep Bhatia of the AIHW's National Centre for Monitoring Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions.

'In the last decade, the variety of medicines available for managing arthritis and osteoporosis has expanded considerably, especially with the arrival of several new medicines that can reduce disease severity, slow its progression, and in some cases prevent complications.'

People with osteoarthritis most commonly use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs along with paracetamol to manage their condition.

For rheumatoid arthritis, the disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug methotrexate is most commonly used.

'Pharmaceutical innovations over the last several years have improved the efficacy and diversity of medicines available to manage these conditions, however the adoption of new and more effective drugs is often costly,' Dr Bhatia said.

Methotrexate was estimated to cost consumers $1.1 million and the Australian Government $2.5 million in 2007, with more than 100,000 subsidised prescriptions dispensed.

More than 1.6 million subsidised prescriptions for meloxicam, a drug used to manage osteoarthritis, were dispensed in 2007, costing consumers $7.4 million and the Australian Government $36.9 million.

Complementary medicines are also used commonly in managing arthritis and osteoporosis.

'While GPs do recommend complementary medicines, the rates are much lower than for pharmaceutical medications,' Dr Bhatia said.


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