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Arthritis Advances of 2004 Provide Hope for Future Treatment

Cutting-edge biologic therapies and a predictive marker for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are among the top 10 arthritis advances of 2004, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Exciting discoveries of the past year also include a novel treatment that slows bone erosion and a common genetic link to autoimmune disorders such as RA, lupus, diabetes and thyroid disease.

Arthritis advocates also scored successes in 2004 with the introduction of the first arthritis-specific legislation in more than 30 years and the implementation of a Medicare pilot program allowing thousands of Americans with RA and psoriatic arthritis to obtain life-changing biologic medications at a reduced cost.

“As the number of people with arthritis reaches epidemic proportions, advances in research, public health and public policy are more important than ever to preventing, controlling and eventually curing the nation’s number one cause of disability,” says John H. Klippel, M.D., president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. “Breakthrough advances in 2004 offer hope to people with arthritis and provide a glimpse of what is possible in the future.”

Other advances include

To develop its annual list of the top 10 arthritis advances, the Arthritis Foundation sought input from clinicians with expertise in different forms of arthritis, scientists from various research disciplines, as well as from the American College of Rheumatology, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Advances in 2004 showed that in the near future, people might benefit from therapies targeted at the root causes of serious forms of arthritis rather than those aimed at treating disease symptoms. It also could become routine to screen patients to determine who is at risk for severe disease progression and, therefore, who is most likely to benefit from early and aggressive treatment.

The foreseeable future also promises a greater quality of life for patients with arthritis and related diseases through increased government funding for research and public health activities, advances in quality care standards for people with arthritis, and improved preoperative processes in joint surgery. An increased understanding of the benefits of weight loss and exercise in reducing pain and improving physical function, as well as promising research into antibiotic treatment to slow disease progression, will lead to relief for millions of Americans suffering from debilitating knee OA.

With one in every two Americans over 50 facing fractures from osteoporosis or low bone mass by 2020, advances made in slowing the progressive loss of bone and increasing bone mass have never been more important. Research conducted in 2004 will serve as the launching pad for bone health advances in the coming year, with researchers poised for even more breakthroughs in 2005 and beyond.

The Arthritis Foundation is the single largest nonprofit contributor to arthritis research in the world and the only nationwide, nonprofit health organization helping people take greater control of arthritis by leading efforts to prevent, control and cure arthritis and related diseases — the nation’s number one cause of disability. For free arthritis information, contact the Arthritis Foundation at (800) 283-7800 or on the Web at http://www.arthritis.org.