Southampton researchers to study new treatment for knee arthritis

Doctors in Southampton are set to trial a new treatment for people suffering from knee arthritis.

The study, which is funded by Arthritis Research UK and involves 160 patients nationwide, will see eight participants recruited through the NIHR Wellcome Trust Southampton Clinical Research Facility at Southampton General Hospital.

It will establish if a drug called methotrexate, which is more commonly taken by people with rheumatoid arthritis, can also be effective in treating osteoarthritis – an unrelated condition.

“Current treatments for knee osteoarthritis are limited in that they only work for short periods and are not suitable for many people,” explained Dr Chris Edwards, a consultant rheumatologist at Southampton General Hospital.

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

Methotrexate is widely and successfully used to treat inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis, a condition which causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints and is related to deficiencies in the body's immune system.

Recent studies have suggested that inflammation is also associated with pain in osteoarthritis, which is not an immune disorder but occurs when there is damage in and around the joints.

Dr Edwards, who is also associate director of the NIHR Wellcome Trust Southampton Clinical Research Facility, added: “Pilot studies have shown that 37% of patients with knee osteoarthritis who took methotrexate had a 40% reduction in their pain, so we now hope to provide further evidence of its success.”

The Southampton study will recruit people with moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee who are not benefitting 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. All patients will undergo an MRI image of their knee and complete a questionnaire every three months.

To find out more, contact the research team at Southampton General Hospital on 023 8120 5279 or email

Posted on Friday 10 July 2015