Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Rockstars of Arthritis Research and the Arthritis Alliance Canada

Going to a medical or healthcare conference is exhilarating whether you are in or out of your comfort zone. You have a chance to meet and talk to patients, experts, organizations and sponsors and really expand your perspectives.

This past week I was at the Arthritis Alliance of Canada Conference which featured a full day of world class speakers in the "Research Symposium: State of the Art and How We Got There." This event and the Gairdner Awards meshed very well since the Awards founder, James Gairdner lived with severe arthritis. In attendance as Gairdner Award Winners and featured speakers were the Rockstars of RA Research.

The two men who discovered anti-TNF therapy for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis were the featured speakers and guests of honour.
Award Winners Sir Marc Feldman and Sir Ravinder Maini having a cup of tea with patients during a break.  Their discovery of anti-TNF as a medication convinced pharmaceutical companies that biologic drugs were a viable treatment and changed the course of research. I have heard many patients say this breakthrough has given them their lives back.

The two Sirs made some interesting comments when Cheryl Koehn, founder of Arthritis Consumer Experts, asked a question from the floor about Subsequent Entry Biologics (SEBs for short). SEBs are also called biosimilars and are biologic drugs that are similar to existing biologics which have reached the end of their patent period.

Since they are made from large complex molecules they are not like regular generic drugs which have the same chemical formulation as existing brand name drugs.

Sir Marc Feldman wondered what repertoire of clinical testing will be required before they are prescribed. He pointed out that the same product produced using the same method in two different countries at two times will be different. He also told the audience that it is a myth that the producers of anti-TNF drugs have invested a lot of money. (and I say he would know this very well) Could the biosimilars be bio better? We don't know yet.

Sir Maini said that for people on an original drug there could be consequences if they changed to a biosimilar. Dr. Dan Kastner of the NIH (National Institute of Health) added that if you are responding well to your current medication, then why change?

Sir Ravinder Maini then made a comment on the price of biologics, saying that when cost is an issue, a 30% price reduction which makes the cost $9,000 rather than $12,000, will not actually help in poorer countries. 

That question and answer alone was worth being there for. You will see more posts about this conference. 

This month I am going to attempt a blog post every day. It will be a real challenge. Don't keep score please.


  1. The biosimilar world is just starting to ramp up. Originator drugs have been gearing up for war to protect their markets. Important questions need to be raised about their tactics and the impact on patients - especially RA patients. Ask some tough questions at these conferences.

    1. I'll be asking, and it really helps to have the opinions of the originators of the treatment. It's so helpful to attend scientific conferences to advance your knowledge and share information with others