Knobbly hands and constant pain — two of the better-known side effects of arthritis that up to a quarter of adults may endure by 2040.

Arthritis actually comes in many forms, but general refers to any disorder affecting joints, and regularly includes joint pain and stiffness, as well as redness, swelling and affected motion.

Arthritis rates are on the rise due to factors such as ageing populations and higher rates of obesity — and health authorities are concerned.

The two most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The global market for the latter will be $28.5 billion by 2025, while for osteoarthritis it’s expected to rise to $11.6 billion by the same time, according to researcher Global Data.

In the US, it’s estimated 26 per cent of adults aged 18 years or older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by 2040.

In Australia by 2050 it will afflict 7 million Australians.

Little wonder that biotechs — including a handful of ASX-listed companies — are focusing on finding treatments for arthritic conditions.

“Growing patient awareness regarding rheumatic disorders and influx of new biopharmaceuticals in the global arena are projected to rev up adoption of rheumatoid arthritis therapeutics,” Grand View Research found in February.

Paradigm Biopharma (ASX:PAR) is perhaps the most prominent ASX-listed biotech in the group. The company has seen a 200 per cent growth in its share price over the past six months alone, hitting 90c on Thursday.

That’s no great surprise, given the company’s promising results in treatment plan under the TGA’s Special Access Scheme, in which Paradigm is treating patients with injectable Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium (PPS).

At the latest check-in, 86 per cent of 125 patients treated reported some reduction in join pain and 91 per cent reported an improvement in knee function.

Paradigm has a separate, but similar, 110-patient Phase IIb trial, with results expected to be read out before the end of the year, chief Paul Rennie says.

“The number of patients seeking treatment via the TGA SAS is a strong feedback that the patients are receiving a clinically meaningful benefit from the injected PPS treatment,” he said.

“Given these patients have a very similar treatment regimen to subjects being treated under the current Phase IIb osteoarthritis clinical trial and these patients have failed current therapies to treat the condition, we feel particularly confident regarding a positive clinical trial outcome, with the expected release of headline results for that trial due at the end of Q4 CY2018.”

Earlier this week, Stockhead columnist Tim Boreham said the results were promising.

Paradigm made $2.7m in revenue for the 2018 financial year and had $2.4m in the bank at the end of the year.

Biotech mid cap Mesoblast (ASX:MSB), which has a market cap of $989 million, has a product candidate called MPC-300-IV which is aimed at treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Mesoblast work with stem cells, and recently finished Phase II trials injecting 300 million mesenchymal precursor cells (MPC), a type of stem cell, into patients with active rheumatoid arthritis.

It is proven to work in sheep, where an injection of 150 million MPCs was helping to lessen the effects of the condition in sheep.

Safety and efficacy of the treatment proved sound, leading trial investigator Dr Suzanne Kafaja from UCLA to comment “these results show promise and support further development of Mesoblast’s MPCs for biologic-refractory rheumatoid arthritis patients, a population with substantial remaining medical need.”

Mesoblast made a $48.8m loss for the 2018 financial year but posted $24m in revenue and has $52.2 million in the bank.

Regeneus (ASX: RGS) announced in March that positive results from its Phase 1 safety trial of its Progenza drug in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA) had been published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.

OBJ (ASX:OBJ) earlier this year had a 24-patient study that shows that its active kneeguard magnetic transdermal system reduces osteoarthritis pain and improves movement.

Their share price has been on the slide, down 45 per cent over the past 12 months. It made $2m in revenue, lost $1.4m for the last financial year and has $4.2m in the bank.

This table shows the companies with exposure to arthritis and their share price returns and financials. Click headings to sort:

ASX code Company Six-month change 12-month change Price Sep 27 (intraday) Market Cap 2018 revenue 2018 profit/loss Cash at bank
RGS Regeneus 57 16 18c 36.6M 611k (5.2m) 1.1m
PAR Paradigm Biopharma 200 186 90c 111.1M 2.7m (6.2m) 2.4m
OBJ OBJ -27 -45 2.2c 41.6M 2m (1.7m) 4.2m
MSB Mesoblast 30 49 $2.04 989.4M 24m (48.8m) 52.2m
CPH Creso Pharma -26 6 55.5c 62.5M 184k (HY) (7.6m) (HY) 11.4m
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