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Social and health care systems in Europe unprepared for future impact of rheumatic diseases: more investment needed to maintain excellence in European rheumatology research

Annual European Congress of Rheumatology, Amsterdam, 21-24 June 2006

Throughout Europe, the burden of rheumatic conditions on the individual and on society will increase dramatically due to an ageing society and general changes in lifestyle. By 2025 a quarter of Europe’s population is predicted to be over 65 years, with the greatest increase in those over 80 years. The number of those suffering from osteoporosis and osteoarthritis will increase proportionally, while lifestyle choices, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, etc., will further compound the problem among all age groups, including very young people. Yet, despite the rising prevalence of these diseases, there is a fundamental lack of awareness among EU Member States of the impact this will have on social and health care systems. This fact is sadly mirrored at European level, where rheumatic diseases still have no specific mentioning in EU health and research programmes. Remarkable progress has been made in studying rheumatic diseases in the past few years and the excellence of European rheumatology research has paved the international paths to better insights into pathogenic, diagnostic and prognostic factors of various diseases. It was European research in the first place that has for example allowed the development of biological therapies, which via their success in rheumatic diseases have recently entered many other areas of medicine. Still, there remains a considerable need for research. For most rheumatic diseases the pathways to disease are not sufficiently known. Some rheumatic diseases can be treated well, but for most others effective therapies still have to be developed. Existing therapies are often very costly and the medication used to treat most rheumatic diseases does not provide a cure, but only limits the symptoms of the disease. Significant research efforts and enhanced cross-national co-operation are urgently needed in order to achieve progress in understanding the causes of rheumatic disorders and finding new and better remedies. “Research teams in the EU Member States are not always sufficiently interconnected to allow for further important insights into the pathogenesis and therapeutic options for diseases that can be life-threatening. We require more European input and investment to create bridges between research institutions across Europe and to stimulate research excellence. The coming years will decide whether European research manages to defend its leading position or whether it falls back behind other economic areas, such as the United States or Japan”, warns Prof. Tore K. Kvien, President of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR). Rheumatic conditions are the most prevalent group of diseases in Europe, affecting an estimated 100 million people, or roughly one third of the European population. The impact on individual health and quality of life of those suffering from rheumatic diseases is substantial and societal costs and the pressure on health and social care systems are staggering. Rheumatic diseases are today the second most common reason for consulting a doctor. The annual Congress of Rheumatology, organised by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) in Amsterdam this month, 21 to 24 June, will be an opportunity for professionals of the highest level to debate the societal impact, causes and current as well as future treatment of rheumatic diseases. By far the largest event in the field, this Congress of Rheumatology will draw an attendance of more than 10,000 international specialists to improve common approaches and to achieve progress in clinical care of patients with rheumatic diseases. Regular media briefings will be held throughout the course of the congress and media interviews with individual specialists or representatives of EULAR can be arranged on request. About EULAR EULAR - the European League Against Rheumatism represents the patient, health professional and scientific societies of rheumatology of all European nations. The organisation aims to foster excellence in science and education, to translate research advances into improved practice and to reduce the burden of rheumatic diseases on the individual and society. It is equally committed to improving the treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal diseases.


Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, United Kingdom