February 2021 Arthritis News Roundup

The Arthritis Foundation is your trusted source for information. Here’s a wrap-up of the arthritis-related headlines from this past month.

CDC Urges Double Masking
Federal health officials suggested wearing two masks to better protect Americans against the threat of more contagious variants of the coronavirus. Wearing a cloth mask over a disposable surgical mask or improving the fit of a single surgical mask could help. Read more masking tips.

COVID-19 May Prompt Body to Attack Itself
An international team of researchers has said it appears COVID-19 causes the body to make weapons to attack its own tissues. The finding could unlock a number of clinical mysteries. Learn more about this study.

COVID Hurricane Approaches
The nation’s top infectious disease experts said the United States is facing a “Category 5” storm as coronavirus variants begin to spread across the country. Learn more about COVID-19 variants.

Tough Pain Relief Choices in the COVID-19 Pandemic
More people with fever and body aches are turning to NSAIDs to ease symptoms, but the drugs have come under new scrutiny as investigators work to determine whether they are a safe way to relieve the pain of COVID-19 vaccination or symptoms of the disease. Read what experts recommend for pain relief.

Vaccine Shows Promise; Pharmacies Begin Receiving Shipments
The AstraZeneca vaccine seems to perform better when the dosing interval is longer — and might lower the risk for asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 transmission — according to phase 3 trial data. In other vaccine news, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination will begin sending a total of 1 million doses to roughly 6500 locations. After that, the program will expand, aiming to reach over 40,000 locations across the United States. Learn more by clicking the links below.

AstraZeneca news release
AstraZeneca preprint on The Lancet (not peer-reviewed)
White House announcement on pharmacy shipments
CNN story on pharmacy shipments
New York Times story on variants
CDC’s SARS-CoV-2 variant map
NEJM COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Center

Post-Vax Antibodies and Infections
A new study suggests that people who have had COVID-19 and then receive the vaccine mount higher antibody responses after one dose than COVID-19-naive people mount after two doses. In addition, infections after vaccination were studied in some 4,100 health care workers who received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Read more about what was found in the study.

The Arthritis Foundation Offers Vaccine Guidance
The Arthritis Foundation and medical experts are encouraging people living with arthritis to follow the recommendations of Dr. Anthony Fauci and get the vaccine when it’s available in their state. Read more about the Arthritis Foundation’s position on COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

Will J&J’s COVID Vaccine Measure Up?
Johnson & Johnson published updated early data on its Covid-19 vaccine, showing it provided participants in a clinical trial with at least some immunity after one dose. The data offer only hints to a tantalizing question: Could the vaccine, given as a single shot, perform as well as the vaccines that U.S. regulators have already authorized, which are given as two? Learn more.

New Lupus Nephritis Drugs Approved by FDA
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it has approved Lupkynis (voclosporin) for treatment of active lupus nephritis among adult patients, in combination with a background immunosuppressive therapy regimen. Lupkynis is the first oral therapy approved for lupus nephritis, one of the most serious and common complications of systemic lupus erythematosus. Learn more.

Can a Stepwise Program Lessen Knee OA Pain?
A new study shows that knee pain caused by osteoarthritis can be reduced by physical therapy and exercise. Read more about the study’s findings.

Stair Climbing and Mortality
Regular stair climbing has the potential to lower the risk of premature death. A new study examined whether daily stair climbing is associated with lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality. Read more about the study.

Safety Warning for Xeljanz
Drug manufacturer Pfizer recently announced that patients, age 50 years and older with at least one cardiovascular risk factor who used Xeljanz, had a greater risk of cancer and cardiovascular events than those on tumor necrosis factor therapy. The cancer and cardiovascular warnings had been noted in earlier clinical trials, and the drug label currently includes cautions about increased mortality, blood clots (thrombosis), lymphoma and other cancers. See the announcement.

Tailored Treatments for Early Arthritis May Be Needed
Researchers say patients with early, undifferentiated arthritis may benefit from milder or stronger treatments, depending on the number of their risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis. More research is needed before clinicians could consider treating some of these patients with hydroxychloroquine, steroids or NSAIDs, rather than methotrexate. Learn more.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug Reduces Risk in Severe COVID-19 Patients
Tocilizumab, an intravenous anti-inflammatory drug used for rheumatoid arthritis, has been shown to reduce the risk of death for patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19, as well as reducing the risk of ventilation and the amount of time until discharged from the hospital. Read more about this study.

Medical Cannabis & Arthritis

Is it right for you? Where do you start?

By Rebecca Gillett, MS OTR/L, Live Yes! With Arthritis co-host and arthritis patient

Finding treatments to help alleviate the chronic pain of arthritis can be challenging, at best. It can be overwhelming to find treatments and medications to alleviate pain that don’t cause other issues. When you have lived with chronic pain for years, you know there is not a one-size-fits-all fix for the various aches and pains you experience.

So perhaps you have considered turning to medical cannabis products containing CBD (cannabidiol) and/or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that produces a “high”) to treat your arthritis symptoms. If you decide to go down that path, you will arrive at a buffet of products and treatments, depending on your state’s laws, that can be beyond confusing. Where and how do you start? What’s the best type of product to use for your particular needs?

Full disclosure: I’ve never inhaled, so I’m not an authority on the matter. I do live in Colorado, so products are readily available and seem to be showing up everywhere I go. Over the past few years, I have tried CBD products in various forms to help alleviate neck and back pain, some with minimal amounts of THC and others only CBD. I’ve also tried CBD edibles in hopes of it helping with sleep. My personal experience has been that some topical CBD products have helped with reducing my joint pain, but minimally. Edibles did not agree with my digestive system, so not for me.

All of this, of course, after discussions with my rheumatologist. We talked about whether using CBD would be a good idea as a bridge between my infusion treatments or to address sleep issues. I am fortunate to have an amazing rheumatologist who is all about shared decision-making and open communication. The fact that I can have a conversation with her about alternative treatments is important, and I know not all patients have this experience with their doctors. You are the expert of your own body, so finding a doctor who is willing to listen to your thoughts and concerns is so important.

On this episode of the Live Yes! With Arthritis Podcast, “Medical Cannabis & Arthritis,” Kevin Boehnke, PhD, University of Michigan School of Medicine, again joins my co-host Julie and me to talk about medical cannabis – also known as medical marijuana – and why the science community has shifted from this nomenclature. He will discuss research on the use of medical cannabis for arthritis and provide some guiding principles for you if you’re considering trying it for your arthritis symptoms. Tune in today.

Be sure to check out the Arthritis Foundation’s CBD Guidance for Adults With Arthritis for information, and use this as a starting point for a conversation with your doctor.



2020 Evening of Honors Highlights:

Recognizing Special Arthritis Foundation Volunteers in 2021

The Arthritis Foundation’s Conference of Champions — an annual gathering of volunteers, partners and other supporters — was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. But we thought it was very important to recognize some phenomenal achievements in the past year, despite the challenges everyone faced. So, belatedly, we held our 2020 Evening of Honors ceremony on Jan. 15, 2021 — live, virtually, online. Continue reading 2020 Evening of Honors Highlights:

Microbiome, Gut Health & Arthritis: Follow Your Gut?

By Rebecca Gillett, MS OTR/L, Live Yes! With Arthritis Co-host and arthritis patient

When you live with arthritis, you know there are only so many things you can control when it comes to managing your disease. Often when the subject of diet and nutrition comes up as it relates to arthritis, there can be some very strong opinions and beliefs within our patient community. My co-host, Julie Eller, and I often say people like to turn to diets for managing arthritis for this very reason. We can’t control what our arthritis brings each day when we wake up, but we can certainly control the foods we eat. Continue reading Microbiome, Gut Health & Arthritis: Follow Your Gut?