Why osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease frequently affecting knees, hips, hands and the spine. It is estimated that 9.6% of men and 18% of women over the age of 60 worldwide live with osteoarthritis. Although osteoarthritis mostly affects older people, younger individuals and athletes are also at risk. Factors such as aging and trauma may contribute to injury and loss of cartilage. However, the underlying biological mechanisms that cause osteoarthritis are still unknown.

Direct and indirect costs of osteoarthritis in the EU are already substantial: for France, The Netherlands, Norway and Spain, total costs for adaptive aids and devices, medicines, surgery and sick absences are estimated to average 1% of the gross national product of these countries per year.

No treatments available

Although there are a wide range of devices and treatments available that can relieve pain and improve quality of life, there are currently no pharmaceutical products that can halt or reverse the onset or progression of osteoarthritis. This is partly because the disease does not affect everyone in the same way, and the mechanisms that lead to the disease in different groups of patients are poorly understood.

It is very important to get an improved understanding of osteoarthritis and develop better guidelines for setting up new drug trials. This is why the European Union, together with the European pharmaceutical industry, has funded the APPROACH project.