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People in Oxford who have osteoarthritis of the knee are being invited to take part in a national charity-funded clinical trial to find a more effective treatment.

The Arthritis Research UK clinical trial aims to find up to 160 people to take part around the country, at least eight patients will be recruited at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Oxford.

The trial will establish if a drug called methotrexate, commonly taken by people with rheumatoid arthritis, can also be effective in treating osteoarthritis: a completely different condition.

Osteoarthritis is a common condition of the joints, affecting around six million people in the UK, and caused largely by degeneration of cartilage at the ends of bones, and also inflammation, leading to pain and stiffness.

"Current treatments for knee osteoarthritis are limited in that they only work for short periods and are not suitable for many people," explained rheumatologist Dr Fiona Watt, who is leading the local arm of the trial.

"As a result, they often live with severe pain and have significant difficulty in carrying out their normal day-to-day activities. There is therefore an urgent need to find new and better ways of managing their pain."

Methotrexate is successfully and widely used to treat inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis, which is a serious auto-immune condition.

Recent studies have suggested that inflammation is also important in causing pain in osteoarthritis. Pilot studies which showed that 37% of patients with knee osteoarthritis who took methotrexate had a 40% reduction in their pain.

The clinical trial, run at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre by researchers from the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Osteoarthritis Pathogenesis, NDORMS, University of Oxford will recruit people with moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee, who are not getting benefit from traditional treatments such as painkillers. Half of those recruited will take methotrexate for 12 months and the other half will take a placebo tablet. Patients will also complete a questionnaire every three months.

To find out more please contact Angela Nauth, recruitment officer at the OA trials office at the University of Leeds, where the study is based, on 0113 3924965 or email oatrials@leeds.ac.uk

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