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Rheumatoid arthritis in children: massive increase in chances of cure

(Vienna 16th May 2012) In Austria, more than 2,000 children under the age of 16 suffer from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. According to Wolfgang Emminger from the University Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the MedUni Vienna, the chance of a cure and the chances of being able to live an independent life with a career in adulthood have now been markedly improved. This is due to the use of drugs such as low doses of methotrexate and biologics. Key advances in the treatment of the systemic form of the condition have also been made through the use of biologics against interleukin-1 and antibodies against the interleukin-6 receptor.

The consequences of systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis can be catastrophic: severe bouts of fever, numerous inflammations affecting the joints, the slow destruction of the joints as well as skin, liver and immunological conditions which can be so severe as to cause pericarditis or enlargement of the spleen.

“Giving high doses of cortisone over an often lengthy period of time leads to considerable side effects such as softening of the bones, bone fragility, central obesity, arterial hypertension and unsightly damage to the skin. These side effects can now be avoided by giving biologics," said Emminger at the International Day of Clinical Research, which this year bears the motto “Research for Children”.

As well as approved biologics, however, children and adolescents often have to be given drugs that are not approved for that particular indication, such as for the treatment of uveitis, an inflammatory condition of the eye that is resistant to cortisone. Says Emminger: “Consequently, further research into the effectiveness of drugs in the juvenile rheumatoid conditions mentioned is essential."

The paediatric rheumatology outpatient clinic within the University Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna currently treats around 400 children and adolescents with various forms of arthritis. 50 of these patients suffer from uveitis.

Service: International Day of Clinical Research 2012
The International Day of Clinical Research 2012 is being held from Friday, 18th May to Sunday, 20th May at the Campus of the old Vienna General Hospital (Courtyard 2, Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Vienna). In Vienna, the event is being organised by the Coordination Centre for Clinical Studies (KKS). A full list of programme events can be found here: http://www.tdkf.at. On Saturday (19 May), visitors will be able to experience numerous hands-on activities, including some suitable for children, that will offer a glimpse behind the scenes of clinical research.