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Andrew Walker is frustrated by the AFL's public stance on the pain treatment. Picture: Michael Klein.
7 Apr 2018
7 Apr 2018
by Courtney Walsh - The Australian

Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals achieves pain treatment win with AFL players

Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals achieves pain treatment win with AFL players

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan says the league has no ­issues with footballers using a painkilling drug that is still under clinical trial.

McLachlan moved to clarify the AFL’s stance amid confusion over whether footballers should be using pentosan polysulfate ­sodium (PPS).

It was reported earlier this week that up to 50 players from six AFL clubs had been treated with the drug, which originated in ­Germany in 1949 and was used to treat blood clots and painful ­bladder syndrome in women.

It has since been repurposed by Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals as a treatment for osteoarthritis and is in phase two of a clinical trial. An animal trial is also under way to test its effectiveness in treating ­alphavirus infections such as Ross River fever.

Players have been able to receive treatment with PPS by virtue of the Therapeutic Goods Administration approving it via a “special access scheme”. It is also WADA-compliant. But confusion arose amid conflicting beliefs as to whether the AFL had actually endorsed the use of the drug.

McLachlan yesterday said the AFL had no role in regards to ­endorsing a medical product for use, saying that it was a matter for clubs or individual doctors.

“I know it has been signed off by the TGA for use, so that it is legal to use,” McLachlan told 3AW. “I know clearly some people have come out saying it is having a ­significant impact.

“My advice is that our doctor advised that it wasn’t WADA prohibited and therefore, whether it was going to be used or not, was ultimately a decision for the player in consultation with his club doctor.”

Some players have reported outstanding outcomes when using the drug. Former Carlton player Andrew Walker has been able to resume playing at a regional level, while dual-Brownlow medallist Greg Williams said he had also benefited from its use.

PPS has been used for decades to treat blood clots and bladder syndrome in women but only recently emerged as a treatment option for osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that results from the breakdown of joint cartilage.

Significantly reduced pain

Paradigm chief executive officer Paul Rennie revealed that six AFL players suffering from osteitis pubis (a common cause of chronic groin pain) were treated with PPS over the off-season.

Rennie said: “They all went from pain scores of six or seven out of 10 to zero.

“It was completely resolved. There’s no doubt it works and the AFL doctors who have used it love it.”

Rennie said that between 40 to 50 current AFL players at seven clubs are using the drug.

Real-world-evidence data to supplement phase II clinical trial

Under the Therapeutics Goods Administration’s (TGA) Special Access Scheme (SAS), doctors treat their patients with the same dosing regimen to the phase II clinical trials.

Currently there about 180 people being treated under the TGA SAS and these data will be important real-world-evidence data that can be used to supplement the phase II clinical data.

Doctors have reported data on the first 45 of 180 patients treated under the TGA SAS. Importantly, pain scores on those 45 patients were reduced on average by 50%.

AFL star added to list of PPS treatment wins

Retired Blues star Andrew Walker, whose AFL career was crippled by chronic knee pain, was one of the first players to trial PPS.

Rennie said: “He could hardly walk between practice sessions and had every available therapy thrown at him — but didn’t respond to any of it

“He is now running between 20 and 30 kilometres a week and has no knee pain and is playing (country) football again.”

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