Medicine: High Cost of Arthritis Relief

Adverse side effects temporarily shelve a promising drug

When Eli Lilly & Co. introduced Oraflex last May, the new anti-inflammatory drug was hailed as a breakthrough for the 30 million Americans who suffer from arthritis. Oraflex (chemical name: benoxaprofen) seemed to be less irritating to the stomach than aspirin, the staple treatment for arthritis victims. The drug produced side effects, notably an increased sensitivity of the skin and nails to the sun, but these seemed minor compared with the benefits.

Within three months, however, the promise turned to peril. Several consumer organizations, including Ralph...

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