Epidemiologic studies continue to enhance our understanding of the rheumatic diseases. Such studies now indicate that 26 million American women are at risk for osteoporotic fractures. Contrary to previous recommendations, the identification and treatment of patients at risk for osteoporosis may be valuable even among very elderly people. Other epidemiologic studies suggest that the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis is decreasing and that it is a more benign disease than previously recognized. Osteoarthritis remains a leading cause of physical and work disability in North America. The roles of occupational physical activity, obesity, and highly competitive (though not low-impact) exercise as risk factors for osteoarthritis continue to be explored. Pharmacoepidemiologic research has recently demonstrated that a policy of prior authorization for prescription of nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory drugs may be highly cost effective. Finally, controlled epidemiologic studies have not confirmed an association between silicone breast implants and connective tissue diseases, a conclusion recently endorsed by the American College of Rheumatology.
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