02 May 2022

BOA response to article in The Times on NICE guidelines for osteoarthritis patients

The BOA wrote a letter to the Editor of the Times in response to their article 'Stop taking painkillers for arthritis, patients told'.

On Friday 29th April The Times front page included the article 'Stop taking painkillers for arthritis, patients told', which discussed new National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for osteoarthritis patients that the Government is consulting on. The BOA's letter to the Editor in response to the article was published on Monday 2nd May 2022. You can read our full letter below:

Sir, The draft  proposals from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (“Stop taking painkillers for arthritis,  patients told”, Apr 29)  are appropriate for osteoarthritis patients with early disease to manage their symptoms. However, we must not forget the 700,000 patients on orthopaedic waiting lists, with at least 200,000 waiting for operations, as a large number of these patients have arthritis. These patients have tried and failed to have their symptoms controlled by weight loss, exercise, anti-inflammatory tablets and creams, and now need surgery. It is important  these patients continue to be active and lose weight if possible, but they should not stop taking painkillers without first discussing this with their doctors. These patients really need surgery and every effort must be made to prioritise operations.

Patients with severe end-stage arthritis and needing surgery were not included in the scope of the Nice guidance.  Surgery is highly effective for patients with advanced osteoarthritis and 98 per cent get important and often life-changing pain relief. While waiting for surgery, these patients are in a lot of pain and painkillers remain an important part of making life bearable.

Professor John Skinner
President of the British Orthopaedic Association