Few RA clinical trials compare one drug to another

Reuters Health: By Kerry Grens NEW YORK | Fri Feb 17, 2012 4:44pm EST

To test whether a new drug is an improvement over existing treatments, the ideal clinical trial would compare the medications head to head, but few trials of rheumatoid arthritis treatments happen that way, according to a new study.

Instead, researchers found that for certain new rheumatoid arthritis medications, subjects in the comparison groups were often assigned to continue taking a drug that didn’t help them or to take a fake drug called a placebo — in both cases effectively depriving those patients of treatment for their disease.

“Of course it’s easier to compare to a placebo than an active treatment but in no way can it justify exposing patients to irreversible morbidity,” said Dr. Candice Estellat at the French national medical research institute, INSERM, who led the study.

Her concern is that if studies don’t compare a new drug to other effective ones, people’s conditions will persist or even worsen throughout the study.

Additionally, without so-called head-to-head trials, doctors will have little evidence to go on to determine whether one treatment is better than another, Estellat said. Read More