In the United States, an estimated 300,000 children are diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.
Throughout July, as part of Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) recognizes some of the young patients at the forefront of research in the fight against this disease.
One of those thousands of children is Parker Letini, a Tampa 17-year-old featured in a new national advertising campaign called “Together” from America’s Biopharmaceutical Companies.
At the age of 8, Letini was an athletic child playing everything from hockey to baseball whose life dramatically changed after experiencing pain so severe, it forced him to use a wheelchair.
After two years of testing, doctors diagnosed Parker with Type 1 diabetes.
“People don’t realize how severe this can get,” Letini says of his kind of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). “I’m in pain every single day of my life.”
While Parker experiences a specific type of arthritis, there are also specialized researchers in biopharmaceutical laboratories across the country studying disease, which attacks the developing systems of the young.
Also featured in the ad is Dawn, a general medicine researcher who now focuses on rheumatoid arthritis after working on the development of a therapeutic for autoimmune diseases.
While the treatment Dawn first studied was successful in helping adults, she learned children couldn’t benefit from it.
“They’re not just little adults,” Dawn says, noting that JRA’s complexity makes pinpoint treatment difficult. “A lot of these diseases are not one disease. So, you may have JRA, that really encompasses seven different types of diseases of the joint, an illness on a spectrum that creates [symptoms] that are both very mild and very severe.”
Since his diagnosis, Letini has entered the forefront of medical innovation, becoming a strong, vocal advocate for himself and other children in the same situation.
This medical innovation is at the heart of the new Together campaign.
The ad seeks to shed a spotlight on the resilience of researchers and patients in the search for cures for some of the worlds most devastating diseases, enabling patients to live longer, healthier and more productive lives.
Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested more than half a trillion dollars in the search for new treatments and cures, with an estimated $58.8 billion in 2015 alone.