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Sometimes the lining surrounding the heart (the pericardium) becomes irritated because of an infection, heart surgery, or unknown reasons. This irritation, known as pericarditis, can cause sharp, stabbing pain in the center of the chest. Although it usually disappears within four to six weeks, some people experience repeated attacks.
In March, the FDA approved a new drug specifically to treat recurrent pericarditis. Called rilonacept (Arcalyst), it targets a substance involved in the underlying inflammation that triggers pericarditis. The medication is taken as a self-administered weekly injection. In a clinical trial, the drug helped quell painful symptoms and lowered the risk of future flare-ups. Side effects include redness or swelling at the injection site and respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose and cough.
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