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EULAR 2012: my Berlin rheumination

EULAR 2012: my Berlin rheumination

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By Dr Irwin Lim, Rheumatologist

I'm writing this, early in the morning here in Sydney, still jet lagged after returning from Berlin a few days ago. I attended EULAR 2012, the European League Against Rheumatism's annual scientific meeting. So did 15000 other delegates.

The conference is huge. Interest and scientific advance in the field of rheumatology has rapidly grown over the last decade. It's an exciting time to be a rheumatologist and Berlin was an exciting place to be.

My trip had many highlights so I thought I would share a few of these.

Of particular note, there were 2 studies presented featuring head-to-head comparisons of biologic disease-modifying drugs used in rheumatoid arthritis. This is a very important development. This sort of comparison is rarely performed due to the costs of such trials and the commercial risk to participating pharmaceutical companies.

And yet, these are the sort of trials we clinicians would like to help inform our decision making (click on the links to read more about the AMPLE trial and the ADACTA trial). These will definitely generate more discussion amongst the rheumatology community.

Given my interest in inflammatory back pain (Ankylosing Spondylitis & Spondyloarthritis), I made sure I attended the key sessions on this. I'd like to bring to your attention that there has been increasing evidence that for patients with Ankylosing Spondylitis, regular use rather than irregular, low use of anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs & COx-2 inhibitors) leads to less long term damage to the spine (for another abstract on this, click here). This is important to realise given the generally bad press given to this group of medications.

It's also increasingly clear that smoking leads to more severe inflammatory disease in rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and spondyloarthritis. We need to do much better with making our patients who smoke, stop . If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears!

There were many, many other sessions which were interesting but as always it was hard to choose what to attend. There can be as many as 15 sessions running concurrently.

Away from the conference, I enjoyed Berlin. It was my 1st time in this city and I found it a very interesting place to wander around. If you get a chance to go, do take one of the many walking tours around the city. Given my limited time to sightsee, the 4.5 hour walking tour I went on provided a great introduction.

I had the great pleasure to attend a dinner with a number of rheumatologists who are active on twitter. They all seem very pleasant, interesting people, committed to improving awareness of rheumatology and committed to providing a balanced view for the internet community. If you're on twitter, you should follow Ronan (@RonanTKavanagh), Lothar (@Rheumatologe), Chetan (@rheumi_), and Michiel (@zandbelt).

All in all, another good experience. If only the travel from Sydney wasn't so taxing.....

Dr Irwin Lim is a rheumatologist and a director of BJC Health.
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