MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Sarah Kingsbury PhD
Osteoarthritis Strategic Lead
Deputy Section Head, Musculoskeletal Medicine and Imaging
Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine
University of Leeds
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Osteoarthritis of the hand is a painful and disabling condition, estimated to effect up to 31 per cent of people aged over 70. It can stop people from carrying out everyday activities and can limit their quality of life. The first-line pharmacological treatments for hand osteoarthritis, including paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are often not effective and are associated with side effects. Doctors have used hydroxychloroquine, an established treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, as an off-label alternative, supported by increasing evidence that inflammation is a factor in osteoarthritis. Until now, there has not been a large-scale study into whether using hydroxychloroquine works.
HERO was a 12 month randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled, pragmatic trial, designed with a view to replicate anecdotal reports of hydroxychloroquine use in clinical practice, and powered to detect a moderate effect equivalent to that for NSAIDs in this population. The study involved 248 patients at 13 NHS hospitals in England: all had the condition for at least 5 years, had changes to the joints in their hands consistent with osteoarthritis and reported moderate to severe pain on at least half of the days in the previous three months to the study commencing.
Participants were randomised 1:1 to either hydroxychloroquine or placebo and followed up at 3 monthly intervals for 12 months. The study found that patients initially reported a small reduction in the severity of pain before the improvement plateaued. However, a similar amount of change was seen in both the group receiving hydroxychloroquine medication and the group taking the placebo.