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Research dogs sniff out a new treatment for osteoarthritis

Shawn M. Carter

As if dogs needed another reason to be loved.

Canines at pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly have led researchers to a possible new treatment for osteoarthritis, which could offer a positive alternative to current medication.

Anti-inflammatory drugs on the market now can have limits and bad side effects such as gastrointestinal disturbances and increased risk of heart problems, according to Science Translational Medicine, where the results of the research were first published.

The new treatment, dubbed LYA, inhibits the enzyme microsomal PGE synthase-1, reducing clinical pain in companion dogs with spontaneous osteoarthritis without the side effects normally associated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

The researchers enrolled 163 dogs with osteoarthritis and treated them with one of four different compounds: LYA, a veterinary NSAID called carprofen, investigational drug LYB or placebo. They then used the Canine Brief Pain Inventory to assess pain and mobility.

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The dogs who got LYA and carprofen showed improvements. The carprofen-treated dogs, however, were much more likely to experience elevated cholesterol. And the number of dogs that saw an adverse event wasn’t much different than those who got the placebo.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoarthritis accounts for $16.5 billion, or more than 4 percent, of the combined costs for all hospitalizations annually. Osteoarthritis was also the most expensive condition that privately insured patients were hospitalized for, making up a whopping $6.2 billion in hospital costs.

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