Arthritis Foundation at ACR 2015

Highlights of ACR 2015 – Day One

The Scientific Sessions of the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting officially kicked off yesterday in San Francisco. More than 16,000 of doctors and related health care professionals from all over the world gathered to hear the latest rheumatology-related research and debate the hottest topics, and our Arthritis Foundation team is on-site joining the dialogue! 2015 is a special year as the ACR’s sister organization, the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (AHRP), is celebrating its golden (50 year) anniversary.

Some of the interesting goings-on: Dr. Daniel Furst, from UCLA, refereed as Dr. Eric Ruderman from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago, squared off against Dr. Maarten Boers from VU Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in the great debate over long-term, low-dose corticosteroids — should patients use it in the first six months? How about in the first 3 years?  It’s all about weighing risks and benefits.

Other hot topics: Do glucosamine and chondroitin have a role in easing OA pain? Who, if anyone, should be prescribed opioid analgesics (narcotics)?  And how to get more doctors and patients to embrace behavioral interventions such as weight loss, physical activity and coping skills.

Biosimilars was also in the spotlight, as Drs. Jonathan Kay from UMass Memorial Medical Center, in Worcester MA, and Eugene Huffstutter from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, walked the audience through the coming wave of medications that are similar to but not identical to the biologics used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Many are approved in other countries. It won’t be long until they are on the market in the U.S., too.

Among the things we learned, there’s was the good: treat-to-target (T2T) works well; the mortality gap appears to be closing between patients with RA and the general population, thanks to earlier and more aggressive treatment that better tames inflammation; and eating a healthy diet lowers the risk of developing RA.

There was also the bad: so-called “fragility” fractures in many bones (not just in hips) increases the risk of dying more than two-fold in people over 45 (so we have to treat osteoporosis more aggressively); and being overweight hurts your chances for remission in RA (but losing that weight through bariatric surgery can help in psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis).

Stayed tuned for more highlights tomorrow!

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