Bristol doctor leads trial for child arthritis drug

image captionDr Ramanan will test whether adalimumab is effective in childhood arthritis

A Bristol paediatrician is leading a clinical trial of a drug to treat children with a form of arthritis which can lead to blindness.

Young people with juvenile idiopathic arthritis can lose their sight after developing uveitis (eye inflammation).

Dr Athimalaipet Ramanan, a consultant in paediatric rheumatology, aims to recruit 25 children for the £1.5m trial of adalimumab this summer.

The trial is taking place initially in Bristol and Liverpool.

A further 14 paediatric rheumatology centres in the UK will start recruiting youngsters later in the year.

In total 155 children will be involved in the six-year trial which will be co-ordinated at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

Dr Ramanan said adalimumab - which is currently licensed for over-13s - has already been shown to help control inflammation of the joints in children with arthritis.

The aim of the new trial was to discover whether it can also alleviate uveitis.

Clare Smith, nine, of Portishead, North Somerset, was given adalimumab to treat her arthritis when other drugs failed to alleviate inflammation in her eyes as well as her joints.

image captionClare Smith, nine, was given the drug after other treatments became ineffective

Her mother Vicky said switching to adalimumab, also known as Humira, had made an "unbelievable" change to Clare's life.

"This drug sorted the joints out... and has kept the eyes in check," she told BBC Radio Bristol.

"When it was really bad I was going to the hospital twice a week, whereas now we're going once a month and as a family that's a big difference to your life."

Clare was diagnosed with the painful condition when she was 18 months old.

She is one of about 15,000 children and teenagers with juvenile idiopathic arthritis in the UK.

The clinical trials are being funded by Arthritis Research UK and the NHS.

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