Brussels, 29 Sep 2005
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling on the European Commission to make rheumatic diseases a research priority within the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and its future health strategy.
The resolution was signed by more than 380 MEPs from every EU Member State and political group, all of whom believe that the fact that over 100 million people suffer from rheumatic problems within the EU needs to be recognised by the EU institutions.
One of the MEPs who submitted the written declaration, Richard Howitt, said after the Parliament vote: 'I am delighted that the declaration on arthritis has received overwhelming support from my colleagues in the Parliament. As the second most common reason for consulting a doctor, it is incredible that it is not up there with the feared and funded illnesses that we are all so familiar with. If one in four people have arthritis, nearly 200 MEPs are likely to be sufferers.'
In addition to the individual suffering that rheumatism causes are the enormous costs to Europe's health and social systems.
MEPs are asking that the Commission and Council recognise rheumatism as a major disease on a par with cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. These conditions are already prioritised within the FP7 proposals.
Professor Tore Kvien, President of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) welcomed Parliament's adoption of the resolution, stating: 'Rheumatic diseases are the single most costly group of disorders, if measured in terms of hospital costs, medication costs, rehabilitation costs and costs of lost days at work. The EU should become aware of these alarming figures and react accordingly.' EULAR claims that rheumatic disorders are a major cause of early retirement and sick leave (450 million days in Europe annually), and lead to losses of around two per cent of GNP every year.
Robert Johnstone, President of Arthritis and Rheumatism International (ARi), who has had rheumatoid arthritis since the age of three, added: 'The resolution of the European Parliament is a very optimistic signal for all people in Europe suffering from different forms of arthritis and rheumatism. These conditions have a dramatic impact on quality of life and the ability to enjoy a full and useful role in society.'
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