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Pfizer Arthritis Drug Quenched Pain Too Well, Leading to Damage

An experimental arthritis drug from Pfizer Inc. reduced pain more than researchers anticipated, doctors said. It also allowed previously hobbled patients to overuse and permanently damage their joints.

Bone destruction developed in 16 of 6,800 patients taking the medicine, tanezumab, as part of Pfizer’s development program, and they all needed a complete joint replacement for the affected knee, hip or shoulder, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Pain-free patients may have put excessive pressure on their fragile joints because they weren’t getting natural pain signals to take it easy, said the lead researcher, Nancy Lane.