Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States, and there are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis and related conditions. More than 54 million adults and nearly 300,000 children have arthritis or another rheumatic disease.
Biopharmaceutical innovation, specifically the invention of biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, has significantly improved the quality of life for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Recent NPC research shows that the introduction of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor therapy in 1998 was associated with an 11.5% improvement in patients’ functional status.
In this video from NPC’s Innovation Matters series, Anna Hyde, vice president of advocacy and access for the Arthritis Foundation, discusses how biopharmaceutical innovation has advanced the health of people living with arthritis and why supporting future innovation is critical to patients.
My name is Anna Hyde. I am the Vice President of advocacy and access for the Arthritis Foundation.
We represent the 54 million Americans living with arthritis in the United States, which comprises over 100 different diseases because arthritis is really just an umbrella topic. So what we do is we provide a lot of resources. We are a trusted go-to source for patients who are looking for any kind of information about their disease, treatment options, things like that.
The Importance of Innovation
For the Arthritis Foundation, innovation is important because arthritis is a lifelong disease. When you are diagnosed with this disease, it can be a very scary diagnosis and the first thing that you want to do is know what is going to help you live your best life. Oftentimes that means biologic medications, it means access to pain treatment, unfortunately, sometimes it means access to surgery and medical devices that are going to help you live better. But because it's a chronic disease that can be degenerative, access to and better innovation in medication, better biologic medications, better medications across the board that have less side effects, that are going to just allow patients to have a higher quality of life.
For autoimmune forms of arthritis, and particularly rheumatoid arthritis is one that people tend to be most familiar with, the advent of biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs has been absolutely revolutionary.
There are stories of what waiting rooms, for example, looked like in doctors’ offices, where you would often hear it described as a sea of wheelchairs, and then after biologic medications became common for treating RA you rarely see that anymore.
Juvenile arthritis can be particularly a cruel form of the disease. Kids who get arthritis, it tends to be a systemic disease so it impacts organ systems and other things like that. It's not uncommon to talk to people who were diagnosed with arthritis before biologic medications who underwent multiple joint replacement surgeries, hospitalizations, severe infections, things like that, before they even turned 20. Now that still happens, unfortunately, but it's much less common so it's been really revolutionary for our children.
The Need for More Innovation
Our concern is that if there's not further innovation in the treatment of arthritis that patients will continue to experience high and oftentimes debilitating levels of pain. And it's something that they'll have to face for the rest of their lives, that even patients who are on these revolutionary drugs like biologic medications will experience severe side effects or that they'll get to a point where they've cycled through all of the biologic medications indicated for their disease and there will be no options left for them. Unfortunately, we've seen patients who are at that point, and it is heartbreaking.
Innovations in Osteoarthritis Treatments
We don't have a disease-modifying drug for osteoarthritis, which impacts more than 27 million Americans and it's the leading cause of disability in the country and the best we can offer is, you know, on the front end, pain medication, NSAIDS, things like that that you buy over the counter. Alternative therapies work for some people, physical therapy, acupuncture things like that, but there aren't any real options for people with OA.
Innovations in Pain Treatment and Precision Medicine
Identifying better treatments for pain is certainly an area that we'd love to see more innovation, and there have certainly been a lot of research efforts in this vein so that's something that we're hoping for in the next 10 to 20 years.
Another one is around precision medicine for rheumatoid arthritis. This is a burgeoning field. Certainly, precision medicine is something that you hear in a lot of therapeutic areas now. But for rheumatoid arthritis, there is a genetic component to the disease and being able to identify what therapy is going to work best in you is something that could potentially be transformative. Because right now, if you come in as a newly diagnosed patient with rheumatoid arthritis, it's really trial and error what drugs to start you on. There are multiple classes of drugs for RA now, which is great. There are options, but knowing which one's going to work best for you is really an art form. And what we've found, and broader literature supports this, is that patients often have to cycle through two to three drugs before they find one that does work for them.
A Holistic Approach
We're looking for a real holistic approach to treating the patient, which we think has a benefit to all players in the health care system. It'll drive down costs over time because you're avoiding unnecessary surgeries, hospitalizations, worsening disease that's going to lead to more expensive treatments, and things like that, and of course, our ultimate goal is that it leads to better health outcomes and better quality of life for the patient.