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FDA Okays Arthritis Drug

Nearly 40 million Americans suffer from some form of arthritis. Now the FDA has approved a new drug that may ease the suffering caused by this painful disease. CBS News Correspondent Heather Murphy reports.

It's a disease that strikes most among the elderly.

Anne McFadden Pollack has been battling arthritis for 20 years. "At one point I really would hate to even shake hands with anyone," says Pollack.

Arthritis has no cure, only drugs to manage the pain and inflammation. But those drugs, called Nsaids, with names like Naprosyn, create their own set of problems, like bleeding ulcers.

"We're talking about some fairly significant side effects. In my practice I have had several patients who have actually had GI bleeds, who have had to be admitted to the hospital, who have had to have blood transfusions," said Dr. Shelly Kafka.

Last week the Food and Drug Administration approved a new arthritis painkiller Celebrex that is supposed to be easier on patient's stomachs.

But the FDA says there's no proof yet this drug actually does prevent gastro-intestinal side effects. Until there is proof, Celebrex will have to carry the same warning label as all the other arthritis drugs on the market.

Dr. Peter Gorevic, a rheumatologist at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, thinks the drug looks promising but there are still some unanswered questions.

"There has been some discussion still as to what the long term effects are going to be," says Dr. Gorevic.

But for patients who have been struggling with the impossible choice between stomach pain and arthritis pain, Anne Pollack says the choice has suddenly become easy.

"I can do most anything I want to do," says Pollack.

Reported by Heather Murphy