Psoriatic arthritis patient Zoe Leadbetter

Research provided treatment when options were running out

Mum Zoe Leadbetter knew she was taking a risk when she agreed to join a research study for her painful psoriatic arthritis.

It’s a blinded study where the patient could be given either the treatment being tested, a drug called Secukinumab, or a placebo – a dummy drug with no active ingredients.

“I’d been in so much pain I could hardly move and had no energy at all,” she said. “I’d had to come off my previous treatment when I had my son, Harry, and afterwards I’d tried several other treatments without them helping – I had very few options left. I was a bit unsure but there was no guarantee anything else would work either so I decided to give it a try.

“I knew the treatment itself was safe as it had been used successfully in dermatology before and I was also reassured that I could pull out of the study if I wanted to – and there were times at first when I was tempted to.

“But now after 18 months on the study, I’m really glad I got involved. It’s reduced a lot of the swelling I suffer in my joints and it’s slowed down the damage, although I’m still on daily painkillers.”

Zoe, who works part-time as a school welfare officer, was in her early 20s when she was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, an incurable condition that causes her joints to be inflamed, stiff and painful. It particularly affects her knees, hands, shoulders, elbows, feet and wrists.

Like the skin condition psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is thought to occur as a result of the immune system attacking healthy tissue. One to two people in every five with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis and its severity can vary considerably.

Zoe, 39, added: “At present I’m having injections every four weeks at Salford Royal and I have a very thorough health check every other visit so I know they’re keeping a close eye on me, which is reassuring. Being on the study really has made a difference to the swelling in my joints and it’s also helped with my psoriasis.”

Consultant Rheumatologist Dr Hector Chinoy is Salford Royal’s Chief Investigator for the FUTURE5 study, sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

He said:  “We have a number of treatments for psoriatic arthritis but they don’t all work for all patients. That’s why it’s important that we continue to carry out research to test possible new drugs that could make a real difference to quality of life for patients like Zoe.”