24/04/2012 13:39 BST

Duloxetine ‘Happy' Drug Relieves Arthritis Of The Knee, Study Claims

A drug designed to beat depression could provide effective, life-changing treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee, researchers have found.

Depression drug 'duloxetine', which increases the levels of feel-good chemicals (such as serotonin and noradrenaline) in the nerves, has also been found to ease arthritis pain in knee joints, say researchers at University of Maryland.

The treatment, which costs £22 for a month’s supply, was given to a group of osteoarthritis sufferers for 13 weeks – and placebo pills given to another group of participants.

Patients who took the drug reported a 33% drop in pain levels compared to those who took the placebo medication.

These findings were published in the Journal of Rheumatology.

A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK said in a statement: "We know that the class of drugs to which duloxetine belongs have a propensity to modify chronic musculoskeletal pain; back pain in particular, but it’s not clear if it works well in peripheral joint osteoarthritis.

"There have been a number of trials of this drug that have shown mixed results.”

Antidepressants are used in a number of pain-relieving medications to help treat conditions such as migraines, pelvic pain and nerve damage.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the drug's pain-killing mechanism is still not fully understood.

However, previous studies have shown that arthritis pain is often worse in patients suffering from depression - and those using an anti-depressant may benefit from decreased sensations of pain.

According to Arthritis UK, people with long-term arthritis are two to three times (20%) more likely to experience depression. And around 68% of patients admit that their depression is worst when the pain levels are highest.

Emer O’Neill, spokesperson for the coalition and chief executive of Depression Alliance said in a statement: “You are twice as likely to experience depression if you have a long term condition.

“Depression is a debilitating condition and having a double whammy of a long-term condition and depression has an undoubtedly serious effect on a person’s quality of life and health.

“As a coalition of charities, we are calling for equal importance to be given to the physical and psychological symptoms of long-term conditions. We must start treating those with chronic conditions as a ‘whole person’ – and not just their physical condition”

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