Inflammatory arthritis to be designated chronic disease in Nova Scotia

August 19, 2015
After 18 months of ongoing discussions, The Arthritis Society – Nova Scotia Division is pleased to announce it has received written commitments from the Liberal, New Democratic Party, and the Progressive Conservative parties that they will designate inflammatory arthritis as a chronic disease within the first year of their mandate.

The Arthritis Society has worked tirelessly with MLAs of all three political parties, officials within the Department of Health and Wellness, and other stakeholders on obtaining this important designation.  There are currently 212,000 Nova Scotians living with some form of arthritis, including 35,000 Nova Scotians with inflammatory arthritis, a significant auto-immune disease. There are various treatment options but currently no cure, making it, by definition, a chronic disease.  Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and juvenile arthritis.

After working with all three political parties, each has agreed that inflammatory arthritis does require designation as a chronic disease. In addition to designating inflammatory arthritis as a chronic disease, each party supports the formation of a working group to determine how people living with inflammatory arthritis can obtain improved access to treatment in order to better manage their condition.

“We’re thrilled to have confirmation from all three provincial political parties on a commitment to designate inflammatory arthritis as a chronic disease in Nova Scotia,” said Susan Tilley-Russell, executive director of The Arthritis Society’s Maritime Region. “This designation was one of our primary advocacy objectives here in Nova Scotia, and this formal agreement gives the Nova Scotians living with inflammatory arthritis the recognition and respect they deserve.  We look forward to working closely with the government in order to create positive change from this very important step.”

A chronic disease designation means greater awareness amongst the medical community and the general public, along with timely diagnosis and effective treatment. According to a 2011 Arthritis Alliance report, the medical cost of arthritis is $500 million in Nova Scotia, representing 15 percent of the budget for the Department of Health and Wellness. Inflammatory arthritis medications can cost between $12,000 and $50,000 annually. In total, 1 in 4 Nova Scotians have some form of arthritis. 

Dr. Evelyn Sutton, the Head of the Rheumatology at the Nova Scotia Arthritis Centre in Halifax and a volunteer with The Arthritis Society’s Nova Scotia Advocacy Committee, stated, “A commitment to designating inflammatory arthritis as a chronic disease in Nova Scotia is a great step forward. Early detection, diagnosis and ongoing treatment management are crucial to improving outcomes. It is our hope that this commitment will bring much-needed awareness of the effects of inflammatory arthritis in our province, resulting in a higher level of patient care.”

As an auto-immune disease, inflammatory arthritis affects people of all ages. It can cause a significant impact on a person’s joints, and also increases the likelihood of other chronic diseases. It has higher cause mortality than HIV/AIDS, asthma, and melanoma, yet it was not recognized as a chronic disease in Nova Scotia.

The Honourable Cecil Clarke, the Mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality and a volunteer with The Arthritis Society’s advocacy committee, lives with inflammatory arthritis. He was diagnosed in his late thirties.

“When I first noticed symptoms, it took three years before I was accurately diagnosed and given proper treatment. I was fortunate to avoid permanent joint damage,” said Clarke. “I take medication that allows me to keep a busy schedule, but thousands of other Nova Scotians are not getting the treatment they need. Raising awareness of this disease is an important first step to recognizing inflammatory arthritis as a chronic disease.”

About The Arthritis Society

The Arthritis Society is Canada’s principal health charity, empowering the more than four million Canadians with arthritis to live their lives to the fullest by combating the effects of arthritis. Over the last 65 years, The Society has invested more than $180 million in arthritis research to develop better treatments and ultimately find a cure. In Nova Scotia alone, 210,000 people are currently battling arthritis, making it one of Nova Scotia’s most common chronic conditions.