ARA 2018: a collaborative approach


To tackle the big issues in musculoskeletal medicine, the 58th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian Rheumatology Association in Melbourne has opted for an inclusive program featuring other specialties and professional bodies.

Co-hosted with the Rheumatology Health Professionals Association, ARA 2018 includes a session on joint surgery co-badged with the Australian Orthopaedic Association (Monday, 7th May, 11 am) and a session on the effects of ageing on the musculoskeletal system with the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society (Sunday, 6th May, 11am).

Another session will have clinical updates for rheumatologists from colleagues in dermatology, gastroenterology and ophthalmology (Sunday, 4pm).

ARA 2018 convenor Professor Ian Wicks told the limbic the program balanced clinical content for rheumatologists with ‘big picture’ topics such as healthcare stewardship. (Monday, 2pm)

“We elevated this topic to a Plenary Session and it leads into the ARA’s Annual General Meeting, so that rheumatologists are kept abreast of initiatives like the MBS Review Taskforce and Choosing Wisely.”

Presenters include MBS Review Taskforce member Professor Adam Elshaug speaking on optimising value in health care and PBAC chair Professor Andrew Wilson on issues in expanding access to high cost medicines on the PBS.

“Whilst we all obviously advocate for the patients in front of us, and that is our primary role, we also have a role to help safeguard the system so it is not bankrupted and it works transparently and fairly for the whole community – particularly in the era of high cost biologic drugs.”

Professor Wicks, Head of Rheumatology at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Head of the inflammation Division at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, said JAK inhibitors would also be highlighted in the meeting (Sunday, 8.30am)

“JAK inhibitors are entering the clinic now. Monoclonal antibodies were the first wave of cytokine antagonists, and have really revolutionised rheumatology and are now starting to have a similar impact in related specialties.”

“But there is plenty more to come. One exciting development has been to add to our armamentarium of monoclonal antibodies, that work on cytokines outside of inflammatory cells, with new drugs that work on cytokine signalling pathways inside of cells. JAK inhibitors work that way and have the advantage of being orally available.”

Professor Wicks said osteoarthritis and back pain were very common problems and therefore major issues for the health system in general. Emeritus Professor Peter Croft from the UK will address back pain and osteoarthritis in the context of community health and an ageing population. (Tuesday, 8.30am)

However, musculoskeletal pain is a problem at all ages, including children. (Monday, 11am)

“Dr David Sherry is one of our international speakers, nominated by the paediatric rheumatologists, who will address the management of paediatric pain.”

“And Dr Allan Cyna is a local expert on communication about pain, particularly hypnosis in paediatric pain. The title of his talk for example is ‘Little words, big impact’ emphasizing how important good communication is for managing pain.”

Other highlights at ARA 2018 include the pre-breakfast fun run or walk along the Yarra River (Monday, 6.15am) and the conference dinner, which is being held in the Members Dining Room at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (Monday, 7pm).

Photo credit: Earl Carter

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