It used to be called the “disease of kings” because only aristocrats could pig out enough to get it. But these days, gout, an extremely painful arthritis of the foot and other joints, is spreading like wildfire through America’s ever-widening middle class, the New York Times reports. Drug companies are scrambling to catch up: Earlier this year, the FDA approved the first new drug in 40 years, and another is up for review next week. “It’s kind of like the forgotten disease,” said the CEO of one drug-maker.
Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid, created when the body breaks down certain types of meat, fish, sugary drinks, and beer. Studies suggest that the number of Americans with the condition has doubled over the past 30 years, though figures are sketchy: somewhere between 2 million and 6 million. “It was like having a toothache so bad you can’t stand it, all over your body,” said one man who found relief with Savient’s Krystexxa, the drug up for FDA review on Tuesday.