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  • Exciting Advances in Arthritis Treatments Transform Therapeutic Goals

    With advances in pharmacotherapy, the functional outcomes for arthritis sufferers can further improve. Progress is certainly welcome for the more than 1 in 5 adults in the United States diagnosed with the potentially debilitating condition. Additionally, approximately 1 in every 250 children has some form of arthritis or rheumatic condition. Arthritis is a broad term that can refer to any one of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, including conditions such as psoriatic arthritis (PsA) (a type of chronic inflammatory arthritis associated with the chronic skin condition psoriasis) and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) (an autoimmune and inflammatory condition in children). Recent statistics have shown that arthritis or rheumatism continues to be the most common cause of disability, with figures reaching to approximately 9 million individuals. Over 8 million of these persons report work limitations because of their arthritis or joint symptoms. This can mean significant risk to quality of life, and can even cause severe financial burden for individuals and their families. Loss of earnings and growing healthcare costs add up to wide-scale economic strain across the nation.

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    Calculated costs from the last decade alone have shown annual medical expenditures upwards of 80 billion dollars. In addition, the indirect costs of lost earnings rang in at nearly 50 billion dollars. The risk of arthritis increases with age, and with a population that is living longer, those dollar amounts will continue to grow. Potentially adding to the increasing health and economic issues is the fact that arthritis and other chronic conditions share some of the same non-modifiable risk factors, such as age, as well as other modifiable risk factors, such as obesity. Conversely, arthritis also may lead to physical inactivity, which can result in obesity and other chronic conditions. A third of obese adults, more than half of adults with heart disease, and more than half of adults with diagnosed diabetes also have arthritis.

    This interconnectivity with other chronic conditions makes the pursuit of therapeutic advances even more imperative. Fortunately, available treatments are increasing and heightening expectations for therapeutic goals of many arthritic conditions (see Arthritis Treatment Comparison Table, based on FDA-approved labeling as of March 2014 as part of the 2015 PDR Nurse’s Drug Handbook). Relief of pain and inflammation and improving physical function are of key importance. New treatment options such as Otezla (apremilast), and Stelara (ustekinumab), which is now also indicated for treatment of adults with active PsA, can improve signs and symptoms of PsA. Disabling childhood arthritis such as systemic JIA has historically had limited treatment options, but with products such as Ilaris (canakinumab) (given as a once-monthly subcutaneous injection in pediatric patients) and Actemra (tocilizumab) (given intravenously once every 2 weeks, alone or in combination with methotrexate), significant improvement in systemic and arthritic symptoms outcomes is possible. Nonpharmacologic therapies are alternative or complementary options for patients with arthritis, and can include physical or occupational therapy, splints or joint assistive aids, education and support, and weight loss. Surgery may also be beneficial. A holistic approach for treating patients with arthritic conditions is ideal, and keeping current on the ongoing advancement in therapeutic treatments will contribute to evolving healthcare as patients experience improved wellness goals.

    Keep current by using PDR.net and by providing updated contact information. PDR Network is a valuable resource for thousands of available products, including those used to treat arthritis, offering alerts and specific product labeling. If you use the electronic health record channel, please ask for it to include the PDR drug data feeds, including PDR BRIEF. Updated drug information, full labeling, and safety warnings will be integrated into your electronic prescribing system automatically, and at no cost to you.

    Salvatore Volpe, MD, FAAP, FACP, CHCQM
    Chief Medical Officer
    PDR Network