New Class Of Powerful Pain Drugs

Fifty-six years old Marie Sheets has suffered from severe arthritis in her knees for two years.

"I had gotten to the point that I was pretty immobile," said Marie Sheets.

She tried many pain medications, but none worked well...that is, until she signed up for tests of the new drug Celebra.

Sheets said, "I went from not being able to climb stairs to being able to walk a couple of miles."

CBS News Correspondent John Roberts reports that Celebra is the first of a new class of powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that kill the pain, but unlike available drugs, don't cause stomach ulcers, liver or kidney problems. They could help prevent some of the seven thousand deaths that occur every year from current medications says Dr. Thomas Schnitzer.

"The patients can take these drugs and not have to worry about having problems with gastric ulcers, perforations, bleeds, serious GI events that land these patients in the hospital," said Dr. Thomas Schnitzer.

It's not just Celebra that promises these benefits...Dr. Thomas Zizic has been conducting clinical trials of a similar drug called Vioxx.

"I think they are going to be the major players and the most widely used drugs to treat chronic pain and conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis," said Dr. Thomas Zizic at Physician's Quality Care Research.

There's more good news. Dr. Lee Simon says they also hold promise in treating or preventing other diseases in which inflammation plays a part--such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and certain cancers..

Dr. Lee Simmon of the Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center said, "These drugs are probably the most exciting drugs to decrease pain and inflammation that we've seen in a long time."

And there's a race to get them out. Last year 80 million prescriptions were written for the currently available anti-inflammatory drugs. The first of these new drugs to get approval--and it could be as soon as next expected to grab the bulk of a multi-billion dollar market overnight.

For the full report, click above.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report