Halifax Conference Seeks to Spotlight an Invisible Disease

    TORONTO, Oct. 9 /CNW/ - Nearly 4.5 million Canadians suffer from an
invisible disease. That disease is arthritis. It causes more pain and long
term disability than other chronic diseases and affects babies to seniors.
Despite its significant burden on the Canadian economy - approximately $5.38
billion in 2007 with long term disability accounting for $4.16 billion(1) - it
gets little attention. A scientific gathering of leading Canadian and
international arthritis researchers will be meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia,
from October 11 to 13, 2007, to share advances and seek solutions to improve
the quality of life of Canadians living with arthritis. October 12th is World
Arthritis Day.
    France Gervais is one of six speakers who will be sharing their
experiences of coping with arthritis with rheumatologists, scientists,
politicians and industry representatives at the Canadian Arthritis Network's
7th Annual Scientific Conference. Ms. Gervais was diagnosed with Juvenile
Idiopathic Arthritis at the age of two. It profoundly affected her childhood
and the day to day existence of her family. "I suffered some anxiety and I
experienced a lot of solitude because of lack of understanding of my illness,"
explains Ms. Gervais.
    She contributed to the invisibility of arthritis through what she
describes as "a phase of complete denial of my illness." As a teenager, she
exercised constantly. "I wanted to be the most physically fit person, to be
among normal people."
    As a new mother coping with a disease and juggling the demands of her
baby daughter, Ms. Gervais would like to see more research conducted on
arthritis and pregnancy.
    Louise Bergeron is another presenter at the conference who lives with
arthritis every day. For her, arthritis is a family affair. "My daughter, at
five and 11 years of age, suffered from bouts of inflammatory arthritis caused
by a strep infection gone wild. At the age of 39, I was diagnosed with
Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus and my sister was diagnosed with Scleroderma (the
most serious form of arthritis)," says Ms. Bergeron. "Both my parents suffer
from arthritis as well. They are the reason I am involved in influencing the
direction of arthritis research; because of the need to find a cure, but also
to improve the quality of life for those I love."
    Having patients speak at a scientific conference may seem unusual, but
the Canadian Arthritis Network has always encouraged people with arthritis to
play a significant role in all aspects of the Network. Dr. Claire Bombardier,
Interim Scientific Director of the Canadian Arthritis Network (CAN) says: "CAN
has taken a bold approach by emphasizing consumer input into research.
Consumers are fantastic in assisting knowledge transfer because they'll say,
'These are the questions we want answered' and 'This is the information we
need.' We have consumers with us in every initiative we take."
    The conference is taking place at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel
(1919 Upper Water St. 902-421-1700). CAN would like to thank the following
sponsors for their support: Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, sanofi aventis,
BioSyntech, Novartis, Merck & Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada and UCB Pharma
    Selected presenters from the conference will also be speaking on the
theme "Managing Arthritis from Childhood to Adulthood" at a free public event
being held Thursday, October 11, in the Acadia Ballroom of the Halifax
Marriott Harbourfront. This event, co-hosted by CAN and The Arthritis Society,
will run from 7-9 p.m. and media are welcome to attend.

    About the Canadian Arthritis Network

    The Canadian Arthritis Network (CAN) (www.arthritisnetwork.ca) is a
not-for-profit organization, funded by the Government of Canada's Networks of
Centres of Excellence (www.nce.gc.ca), to support arthritis research and
development and to facilitate the commercialization of its Network
Investigators' discoveries. CAN is the single point of contact that links 179
leading Canadian arthritis researchers and clinicians, 45 Canadian academic
institutions, The Arthritis Society, pharmaceutical and biotechnology
companies, and government.

    (1) These figures are based on findings from a 1998 study ($4.4 billion
        and $3.4 billion respectively) and have been adjusted for inflation

For further information:

For further information: Stacey Johnson, Director of Communications,
(416) 586-4685 Toronto (office), October 10-14, please call (416) 712-4448
(cell), sjohnson@arthritisnetwork.ca

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