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Many people contribute to the progress of EULAR
The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) is currently a partnership organisation of 43 national scientific societies and 30 national social leagues (www.eular.org). It fosters excellence in education and research, which can be translated into better treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation for patients with rheumatic diseases.
EULAR had a strong year in 2005 and hopes for even more growth in 2006. The major event was, of course, the EULAR congress in Vienna, which gathered nearly 10 000 attendants from 99 different countries. All delegates to the congress receive a free 1 year’s subscription to the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (the EULAR journal), which has become one of the leading scientific journals in rheumatology. In the past 6 years the print circulation of the journal has increased from 1800 (in 1999) to about 10 000 (in 2005), submissions have tripled, and the impact factor has more than doubled, being close to 4 in 2005.
In April, the EULAR secretariat moved into “the EULAR house” in Kilchberg, a few minutes drive outside the Zurich city centre. This house also provides facilities for committee meetings of up to about 40 people and has already proved to be a good facility for such events.
One of EULAR’s major objectives is to improve the awareness of rheumatic diseases in Europe, with a particular focus on the political level. Some progress in this objective was achieved in 2005. A written declaration, presented by the European Parliament in July, was signed by 406 members of the Parliament (http://www.europarl.eu.int/activities/expert/writtenDecl.do?YEAR_VAL=2005 (p. 4, accessed 14 November 2005). This result was reached after a strong and important collaboration between the patient representatives in EULAR and rheumatologists, health professionals, and scientists. A large number of people contributed to the lobbying by EULAR in Brussels, Strasbourg, and at home in their respective countries.
This declaration calls on the Commission and Council to:
Ensure that the EU’s 7th Research Framework Programme makes rheumatic diseases one of its explicit priorities
Ensure that the EU’s new health strategy makes arthritis (musculoskeletal disorders) one of its priorities
Strengthen legislation to outlaw disability discrimination through a specific Disability Directive
Encourage member states to take measures to ensure better access to the full range of treatments in all EU countries.
However, the current drafted text for the research framework programme 7 (http://www.cordis.lu/fp7/, accessed 14 November 2005) does not recognise rheumatic diseases as a major disease. Rheumatic diseases are only mentioned in parentheses in a paragraph dealing with “other chronic diseases”, whereas infectious diseases, brain disorders, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes/obesity have separate paragraphs, supporting their status as “major diseases”. Thus, EULAR will continue to argue for, and work politically to ensure, that rheumatic diseases become an explicit priority of the EU’s 7th Research Framework Programme, which will be finalised in 2006.
The major event for EULAR in 2006 will be the congress in Amsterdam, 21–24 June. The planning of the programme of invited speakers is nearly completed, and the deadline for abstract submission is 31 January 2006. The programme for health professionals will be improved and the Amsterdam congress will also host the Paediatric Rheumatology European Society (PRES) congress. There will be an extended programme on Saturday with important high quality lectures. The congress will end around 4 pm—thus we recommend a return flight on Sunday or late Saturday!
During EULAR 2006 new EULAR recommendations for the management of rheumatic diseases will be presented. Work on the recommendations has been given high priority, and we hope in the near future to see the results of the collaboration with the American College of Rheumatology. Shortly, EULAR will also restructure its educational programme. Further, we are working on an improved website, where the reader will more easily be able to see news from EULAR and opportunities related to grants, bursaries, educational courses, and other activities. The organisation will continue to sponsor various “visiting programmes”, to fund collaborative research projects in Europe, and develop networks of centres of excellence in research in rheumatology.
The progress of EULAR is a reflection of major contributions to the organisation from many people, including colleagues and patients, as well as Fred Wyss and his team in the EULAR house, and the BMJ Publishing Group team. We can look forward to an exciting year in 2006 with a lot of opportunities and we hope to see as many colleagues as possible at EULAR 2006 in Amsterdam.