Arthritis is a leading cause of joint deformity and disability that affects up to 15% of the Irish population, with 2% suffering from inflammatory forms such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the synovial tissues within the joints, causing chronic pain and swelling. It’s a systemic disease, meaning its potential to affect the whole body can cause reduced mobility or permanent disability. Furthermore, it is associated with significant co-morbidities including psoriasis, diabetes and obesity.
There is no cure for arthritis. Over the years, major advances in the understanding of the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis at a cellular level have been made. This has seen the advent of biologic therapies including anti-cytokine agents such as anti-TNF-alpha therapy. However, these novel treatments are expensive, placing further strain on an already over-stretched health budget, are partially effective with efficacy in 30% of patients and may be associated with serious and unacceptably high rates of adverse effects such as tuberculosis and other opportunistic infections. Development of more targeted and effective therapies for the treatment of arthritis is necessary and will have a considerable benefit for the individual in terms of quality of life and for society as a whole, both economically and socially.