I had been looking forward to attending the 2015 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Annual Meeting in San Francisco for some time and the meeting certainly lived up to my expectations!
The ACR Annual Meeting is one of the two major international rheumatology conferences held each year and it kicked off on the 6 November and wrapped up on the 11 November. More than 16,000 rheumatologists and related health care professionals from all over the world attended to share knowledge and results including updates on the latest research and debate the hottest topics.
This is my third time attending an international conference, but the sheer size of the ACR Annual Meeting continues to amaze me. This year the meeting took place at the Moscone Convention Centre and the exhibits and scientific sessions spanned all three buildings. There were multiple sessions taking place simultaneously, so you have to be selective and plan ahead as to which to attend. Even though the lecture halls were large, for popular sessions... if you don't get there early...then expect to stand!
To help us plan out our meeting, the ACR designed an excellent app which I found most helpful in assisting me navigate a meeting of this scale.
There were many great talks, some highlights for me were:
- Hot topics in Osteoarthritis, where data on the use of glucosamine and chondroitin on pain and structure was reviewed. Other hot topics included central pain in osteoarthritis and the importance of behavioural approaches in osteoarthritis, particularly weight loss, physical activity and coping skills.
- The discussion on Biosimilars in Rheumatology. Biosimilars are a copy of existing biologics developed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis which have undergone extensive analysis and are deemed similar, but are not identical to the original drug. Biosimilars will be cheaper than the original biologic drugs and an alternative option for patients. There is ongoing discussion regarding how it should be incorporated in practice. The talk was a fantastic overview on this complex, evolving area of medicine.
- The great debate over long term, low dose corticosteroids use in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis - it comes down to weighting the risks and benefits.
- Maintenance therapy in ANCA associated vasculitis which focused on challenges in achieving remission and how to predict and prevent relapse with appropriate maintenance therapy.
- Current state of the art in Spondyloarthritides which touched on the patient's concerns and perceptions on their disease and linking it back to what is shown in the latest studies.
- ACR Abstract Sessions I particularly liked the clinical aspects sessions which presented data to show that "treat to target" is an effective management strategy and is closing the mortality gap between patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis and the general population.
- Another paper presented data which showed that the annual rate of hospitalisation in the United States for gout has overtaken admissions for rheumatoid arthritis, which highlights not only the increasing prevalence of gout and impact of advances in Rheumatoid Arthritis care, but the need to treat gout more aggressively, adopting a "treat to target" approach in lowering serum uric acid levels.
- Issues in Ultrasound addressed whether it is time to include ultrasound in the response remission criteria for Rheumatoid Arthritis as it is a tool that allows us to better detect synovitis and disease activity more sensitively and thus make better treatment decisions. This was of particular interest to me as I am embarking on an ultrasound course to incorporate ultrasound into my regular clinical practice.
Looking back, the meeting was really quite intensive (particularly when you factor in jet lag) but it provided me the luxury of being in the position to absorb and learn from experts from all over the word. Moreover, it was a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues and mentors and it certainly made me feel a part of the larger rheumatology community.
It was great seeing so many with similar interests, all keen to be updated about the latest in rheumatology. I am already looking forward to my next meeting!