Incremental Innovation Series: Focus on Rheumatoid Arthritis

Incremental Innovation Series: Focus on Rheumatoid Arthritis

04.03.13 | By

As part of our ongoing incremental innovation series on the Catalyst, Thomas F. Goss, PharmD, Senior Vice President, Boston Healthcare Associates, highlights the importance of medical progress for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis in his very own blog post: The weather is warming (finally) here in the northeast, and like many families, we found ourselves enjoying the warm outdoor weather this past weekend. The arrival of spring brings a natural increase in people enjoying outdoor activities - parents and children out walking, jogging, and riding bikes, and playgrounds, soccer, and baseball fields in full use. It is great to see such activity!

However, for millions of Americans who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which can be progressive and crippling when left untreated, this level of activity was once a distant memory or a faraway hope. But today, advances in our ability to diagnose and manage patients with chronic conditions like RA, have played a major role in slowing disease progression and improving quality of life. I have been privileged to lead the development of a series of reports, written by Boston Healthcare Associates, which focus on recognizing the value of pharmaceutical innovation. My colleagues and I summarize some of the key dynamics of the incremental innovation process we have seen in the treatment of important chronic conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, and most recently, RA. While FDA approval of novel medicines is a critical milestone in the drug development process, often the full clinical benefits of innovative therapies are not fully realized until well after initial regulatory approval. There is an evolution in our understanding of patient biology, disease mechanisms, and optimal approaches to treatment, which we develop over time. This evolution is often incremental, continually building on prior clinical research and supported by evidence that is developed in real-world treatment settings.

In our most recent report released in March, "Recognizing the Value of Innovation in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis," we examine some of the pathways by which this evolution in understanding occurs over time for RA patients. For example, the treatment paradigm for RA has evolved from the 1990's to present as we understand more about the benefit/risk of treatment with biologics in combination with other non-biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) therapies, use of biologics in earlier stages of RA to achieve remission and delay or prevent progression, and use of biologic therapies in different or expanded disease indications with common biochemical pathways causing inflammation. We have seen examples of how each of these elements has shifted the course of RA management over time, to the point where, in order to capture markedly better treatment outcomes, the metrics of how we evaluate treatment outcomes had to be updated by the American College of Rheumatology.

In order to sustain, and keep building on continued progress in the treatment of RA and other chronic conditions, pharmaceutical innovators, clinicians, patients, and insurers, all need to recognize that therapeutic breakthroughs do not often come from a singular, major discovery. It is important to also recognize the often incremental processes by which innovation emerges, and to foster policies that reward innovation. This matters to patients with RA and many other debilitating conditions and life-threatening diseases. I'll be reminded of this in the coming months, when communities all over the U.S. host The Arthritis Walk®, the Arthritis Foundation's nationwide event that raises awareness and funds to fight arthritis, the nation's leading cause of disability.

To participate, go the following link to find an Arthritis Walk event in your community and see how you can make a difference in the lives of those with arthritis!


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