How has our research transformed the lives of people with arthritis?

Last updated: 03-17-2020

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How has our research transformed the lives of people with arthritis?

Over the last 80 years, our research has helped us to make like-changing breakthroughs and improve the lives of millions of people with arthritis. Together we've achieved so much, but there is still more to do.

Our research achievements timeline shows our significant milestones to date, from setting up the first biobank for rheumatoid arthritis data to improving the treatment of gout through nurse-led care.

We’ve picked a few highlights to show how far we’ve come and why dedicated research is vital to bring positive change for people living with arthritis.

The introduction of a new class of treatments for inflammatory arthritis, known as biological therapies, is one of our key achievements to date.

The first of these treatments targeted a molecule called TNF, or tumour necrosis factor, which occurs naturally in the body and plays an important role in inflammation.

We were key funders of this research through our support of early work which uncovered the role of TNF in the process of inflammation and joint damage.

Drugs such as infliximab have transformed the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and psoriatic arthritis over the last 20 years and improved the quality of life for many patients.

Ian was prescribed the anti-TNF drug adalimumab to help treat his psoriatic arthritis.

We estimate that over 1.9 million people with inflammatory diseases have benefited from biological therapies to date, which as well as inflammatory arthritis also includes conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Learn more about our role in the development of anti TNF research.

Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) can cause blood clotting in the arteries and veins and is a major cause of problems in pregnancy, including recurrent miscarriage, slow growth and stillbirth. APS is also one of the most common causes of stroke among people under the age of 40.

These results have informed treatment guidelines both in the UK and abroad, with hundreds of couples in the UK benefiting from this treatment each year.

Learn more about our research into reducing miscarriage in women with APS.

Lower back pain is a major health problem in the UK, affecting four out of five people at some point in their lifetime.

There are a range of treatments available for back pain, including painkillers and other drugs, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and surgery but previously it was unclear which patients would benefit most from which treatment.

We funded a research team at Keele University to address this problem by developing a new way of grouping patients according to the treatment most likely to work best for them.

They developed the STarT Back Tool, a simple questionnaire that GPs can use to assess an individual’s risk factors for chronic back pain. The patient’s responses can then be used to direct them to the right course of treatment.

This targeted approach results in a reduction in patient-reported disability at 4 and 12 months, 50% fewer days off work and cost savings to the NHS of £34 per patient.

Read more about our research into targeted treatment for back pain.

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