ESF sets out research strategy to push rheumatic diseases up the health agenda

Europe's experts in the field will hear the plan and discuss the recommendations at their annual meeting in Amsterdam this week.

Brussels, June 2006 The world's largest meeting of experts in rheumatic diseases will today hear and debate calls for a pan-European approach to prioritise and combine the efforts of many excellent scientific and clinical groups working at a national level, and accelerate research in the field.

The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) meeting in Amsterdam will be briefed on the findings of an expert group on rheumatic diseases, established by the ESF to set out research priorities for Europe, to improve treatments and prevent disease.

Stiff and aching joints may be accepted as an inevitable aspect of ageing, but the fact is that rheumatism is the leading cause of pain and disability in Europe, with approximately 100 million sufferers. Joint diseases account for half of all chronic conditions in over 65-year olds, a figure that will rise as the population ages.

And while these diseases are mainly afflictions of age, there is significant unmet medical need in paediatric rheumatism.

The cost of treatments and the economic loss caused by rheumatic diseases is estimated to more than Euros 200 billions per year.

The task force, comprising Europe's leading researchers and clinicians, along with observers from a patients' representative group and the European Medicines Agency, EMEA, has looked across the field, considering all aspects of basic research and clinical practice, and distilled its findings into five key recommendations. The aim is to provide coherent objectives for national and European funding bodies and healthcare providers, and ensure that rheumatic diseases are acknowledged as a major group of diseases within the European Commission Framework Programme 7.

Bertil Andersson, ESF Chief Executive said, "The ambition in this policy paper lies not only in identifying key i

Contact: Dr. Carole Moquin-Pattey
European Science Foundation

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