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Partnership Launches Osteoarthritis Initiative

For the first time, a public-private partnership will bring together new resources and commitment to help find biological markers for the progression of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that is a major cause of disability in people 65 and older. Over 5-7 years, the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI) will collect information and define disease standards on 5,000 people at high risk of having osteoarthritis and at high risk of progressing to severe osteoarthritis during the course of the study. Currently, new drug development for OA is hindered by the lack of objective and measurable standards for disease progression by which new drugs can be evaluated.

The OAI consortium includes public funding from NIH and private funding from several pharmaceutical companies: GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., and Pfizer. The consortium is being facilitated by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, Inc. The OAI will provide approximately $8 million yearly for as many as six clinical research centers to establish and maintain a natural history database for osteoarthritis that will include clinical evaluation data and radiological images, and a biospecimen repository. All data and images collected will be available to researchers worldwide to help quicken the pace of scientific studies and biomarker identification.

OA is a chronic disease that is different in each person, which complicates clinical trials for new therapies. Today, 35 million people — 13 percent of the U.S. population — are 65 and older, and more than half of them have evidence of osteoarthritis in at least one joint. By 2030, 20 percent of Americans — about 70 million — will have passed their 65th birthday, and will be at risk for OA.

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