OBJECTIVES: Biologic agents have dramatically changed treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). To date only scarce head-to-head data exist especially when the biological therapies are given as monotherapy without concomitant disease modifying drugs (DMARDs). Thus the objective of the current study is to evaluate treatment response of all available biological therapies with special focus on utility (EQ-5D-3L) and drug survival of biologic DMARDs (bDMARDs) prescribed as monotherapy in RA patients in southern Sweden.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: All RA patients registered in a regional database as initiating bDMARD as monotherapy, i.e. without concomitant conventional synthetic DMARDs (csDMARDs), from 1st of January 2006 through 31st of December 2012, were included. Patients were followed from initiation of the first dose of bDMARD monotherapy treatment until withdrawal from treatment, loss of follow-up or 31st of December 2012. Descriptive statistics for utility (EQ-5D-3L), effectiveness, and drug survival of bDMARD monotherapy were calculated.
RESULTS: During the study period, a total of 554 patients were registered in SSATG as initiating bDMARD monotherapy. Most of the patients were women (81%), with a mean age of 57 years. The average disease duration was more than 12 years, and on average the patients had previously been treated with approximately four different csDMARDs. Fifty-five percent of the patients were initiating their first bDMARD, 26% their second, and 19% their third or more. At baseline the average EQ-5D-3L was 0.34. Most patients had moderate to high disease activity, with a mean DAS28 of 5.0, and were substantially disabled, with an average HAQ score of 1.4. At 6 months´ follow-up, the EQ-5D-3L in patients still on the biologic drug had increased by mean 0.23 (SD 0.4) with no differences between type of bDMARD (p = 0.49). The mean change in EQ-5D-3L ranged from 0.11 (rituximab and infliximab) to 0.42 (tocilizumab). Although the changes were numerically different, no distinct pattern favored any particular bDMARD for EQ-5D-3L (p = 0.49) or other clinical outcomes. Overall, DAS28 defined remission and low disease activity were achieved in 20% and 43% of patients, respectively. Drug survival rates were statistically significantly different between bDMARDs (p = 0.01), with the highest rates observed for rituximab, followed by etanercept. After failing first course of anti-TNF, patients switching to another mode of action had significantly higher drug survival than those switching to a second course of anti-TNF therapy (p = 0.02).
CONCLUSIONS: Utility (EQ-5D-3L) increased after 6 months of all bDMARD treatments in monotherapy, indicating improvement of patients' quality of life. After failure of anti-TNF treatment in monotherapy, switching to another mode of action may be associated with better drug survival than starting a second TNF-inhibitor.