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I have been traveling on business lately. The good news is that both RA and my bout of bronchitis have been quiet which is amazing. Usually the combination of airplanes, dragging baggage, bad diet, strange beds, and long hours is enough to throw me into a flare and/or aggravate any other health issues I have lurking around.

The bad news is that there has been a lot going on in the field of rheumatology and immune-related diseases and I haven’t had a chance to either keep up or post anything here.

Of major interest was the 2014 EULAR conference earlier this month. EULAR (www.eular.org) standing for European League Against Rheumatism. (I’d be shocked if there was a league FOR rheumatism, but still …). There were several major papers that were presented, bringing hope for new treatments, better diagnosis, and more insight for rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions. Cliff Notes versions of these are available (among other sources) here: Medscape.com. Full abstracts of the presentations are available at the EULAR site.

Here’s a sample list of topics (with links to the Medscape article — you must have a free account):

The RA drug, Xeljanz, has also been making some very interesting news. First, it was used to reverse the baldness of a 25-year old man who lost his hair due to Alopecia. He was not only completely bald on his head, but had lost all body hair. After treatment, he now has a full head of hair along with eyebrows, eye lashes, and (I’m assuming) hair elsewhere on his torso. Alopecia is an auto-immune disease where the body attacks hair follicles. I don’t think there is yet much hope for standard male-pattern baldness, but this is a major step for the millions of people who have lost some or all of their hair to the disease.

Based on the results of a two-year study, Xeljanz has also been shown to be more effective for RA than methotrexate as a monotherapy (single drug therapy). On one hand, this is great news for the many people who cannot tolerate the side effects of methotrexate. On the other hand, methotrexate is very cost-effective and Xeljanz costs more than $2000/month. My insurance company would not cover the cost of Xeljanz until I had provided information that I’d completed the “step therapy”, i.e., taken other drugs first that didn’t work (including methotrexate and Enbrel).

The amount of information about RA and the research that is being done is wonderfully encouraging. Some of these advancements won’t come to fruition for at least a few years, but all of them describe a brighter future for RA patients than we’ve ever had before.

I hope that whatever news is in your life is all good. Thanks for checking in.

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