The Autoimmune Disease Summit

March 3rd, 20101:31 pm @ Angela Odom


To kick-off National Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month, the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) released a report on the current state of autoimmune disease (AD) and its economic and social impact globally and in the U.S.

The summit is taking place today, March 3, and unfortunately I was not able to get to the site in time to watch any of the webcasts. I particularly wanted to hear Donna Jackson Nakazawa, author of The Autoimmune Epidemic. I am currently reading her book and it is griping. In fact, the first few pages rendered me speechless and I have not been able to put it down.

The report states autoimmune diseases are responsible for more than $100 billion in direct health care costs annually. Another little interesting tidbit shows up as well: Are we too clean? This is coming up over and over again.

Highlights from the report:

Economic and Social Impact on U.S.

* While the National Institutes of Health have estimated the annual direct health care costs of AD in the U.S. to be in the range of $100 billion, according to the new assessment, that estimate might be too conservative, given that estimated annual direct and indirect costs for seven of the major ADs (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and scleroderma) by themselves are $50 billion.
* Incidence and prevalence data for AD both in total and for individual diseases are either inconsistent or nonexistent. Thus, there is a significant need to improve prevalence and incidence data gathering and reporting. Several reports have indicated that autoimmune diseases collectively affect 5-10 percent of the developed world’s population and are a significant cause of chronic illness and death.

Incidence and Prevalence

* “The Hygiene Hypothesis” — Is being too clean a bad thing when it comes to autoimmune disease? Yes, according to World Health Organization epidemiological data which indicate that ADs like type-1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis are extremely rare in most African and Asian populations, yet they increase conspicuously when these same populations migrate to a modern setting.
* “Environmental Triggers” — After heredity and epigenetics, environmental triggers come next as a causative factor for autoimmune disease. Beyond drug-induced AD, other suspected environmental triggers include infections, vaccines, female hormones, UVB radiation exposure, fetal blood cells, stress, vitamin-D deficiency and pollutants/toxins.

Current Therapies and Future Pipeline

* The vast majority of currently available therapies target only 10 or fewer of the 149 unique autoimmune or autoimmune-related diseases. In addition, new drug development programs don’t do much better. They only target 30 percent of these diseases.
* Research programs that seek to find common mechanisms among groups of autoimmune diseases may provide a more reasonable and effective way forward. Given that the drug development process takes roughly 7-10 years, and that the current pipeline lacks candidates for over 70 percent of the known autoimmune diseases, patients may have to wait at least a decade before seeing any progress.
* Based on various reports, the global autoimmune therapeutics market is projected to reach between US $49 -69 billion by 2014.

The Way Forward

Looking to the future of AD diagnosis, management and research, the report calls for:

* increased awareness that AD runs in families and/or that there is a genetic pre-disposition;
* clinical training for physicians which emphasizes the nature and relationship of the various ADs;
* the creation of autoimmunologists who can provide a full perspective of AD, develop an overall patient management plan for specific diseases and refer patients to related specialists when needed;
* improved therapeutic interventions for the full spectrum of ADs, regardless of prevalence; and,
* the evaluation and identification of environmental autoimmune triggers so that susceptible individuals can avoid them and minimize or prevent the onset of an AD.

I hope these sessions are being recorded because I would like to see them at a later time. AARDA has a wealth of information on their site so bookmark and visit them often.


American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) is the nation’s only non-profit organization dedicated to bringing a national focus to autoimmunity as a category of disease and a major women’s health issue, and promoting a collaborative research effort in order to find better treatments and a cure for all autoimmune diseases. For more information, please visit